Hi Reddit! We’re the team behind the FCC complaint against the Baltimore City Police Department for its extensive and racially biased use of fake cell towers (sometimes called “stingrays,” “IMSI catchers,” or “cell site simulators”), which it uses to locate and track cellphones. Ask us anything about the complaint, police use of the tech or more. We will be answering questions from 2 - 3 pm ET.

EDIT: Thanks for participating. We had a lot of fun! This thread is now closed, but we really appreciate all of your comments!

Complaint & Article Explaining

Yesterday’s Reddit Thread

Filers and AMA participants:

Brandi Collins, Color Of Change

Eric Null, Open Technology Institute

Steven Renderos, Center for Media Justice

Laura Moy, Visiting Assistant Professor, Georgetown Law, and lawyer for Color Of Change, Open Technology Institute, and Center for Media Justice

[Proof] (http://imgur.com/a/fJTfW)

Comments: 86 • Responses: 8  • Date: 

sloane_sabbath23 karma

You mention in the article that "Investigators have been concealing the technology from judges and defense lawyers and after the revelations Maryland's second highest court ruled that police should get a warrant before using a Stingray."

Isn't it kind of illegal, or really illegal, to withhold evidence? What are the repercussions?

lauramoy24 karma

Yes, this is a really interesting problem. We've heard that in some cases, some prosecutors, knowing that the police used a cell site simulator without proper authorization, or believing that they cannot reveal information about the CS simulator due to a non-disclosure agreement they've signed with the FBI, have engaged in a practice known as "parallel construction." In parallel construction, law enforcement and prosecutors may make misrepresentations about how they arrived at certain evidence or certain conclusions, such as by claiming that they received facts from a confidential informant.

The primary repercussions are losses in criminal cases, or the overturning of cases that have been successfully prosecuted. When it turns out that law enforcement obtained evidence improperly, or made misrepresentations regarding that evidence, cases get overturned.

opentechinstitute17 karma

As mentioned by Laura, local law enforcement usually has to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI agreeing not to publicly discuss Stingray use. In an article last year, the FBI claimed that the agreements apparently do not prevent officers from disclosing a Stingray's use in a court case, but that's not what the agreements actually say.

candacejeannec10 karma

Hi guys! Has there been any response from the wireless industry on this?

opentechinstitute7 karma

We have not heard anything from the wireless industry. We would expect that they would care about the unlawful use of their wireless spectrum. They cared in previous circumstances, such as cell signal boosters.

lemonlymon5165 karma

What has been the BPD or the FCC's response to the article and to the complaint?

opentechinstitute8 karma

Thanks for the question. The BPD has so far refused to comment. The FCC responded in this article, but we have not heard a more thorough response actually explaining why this is not a blatant violation of law and FCC rules.

rbevans5 karma

Are you aware of other cities doing this as well? I know in Charlotte, NC there were reports of Police Departments using Stingrays as well.

lauramoy11 karma

Yes. This is an extremely far-reaching problem. BPD appears to be among the worst (or perhaps the very worst) state or local police department in terms of how heavily they rely on these things (with no transparency/accountability to the public they are pledged to serve), and in terms of how clear it is that they conduct themselves in a way that is racially biased against African Americans.

But many other law enforcement agencies around the country also have and use the devices. And we don't know what we don't know—there could be far more than we have public information about.

ACLU has a helpful interactive map of LE agencies known to have cell site simulators: https://www.aclu.org/map/stingray-tracking-devices-whos-got-them

opentechinstitute6 karma

Regarding the secrecy of Stingrays, police departments often have to sign non-disclosure agreements regarding the technology, preventing public discussion. Baltimore has such an NDA.

IKingJeremy3 karma

What can regular citizens do if they are concerned about this type of thing?

opentechinstitute7 karma

There are a couple of things to do. The easiest is that you can sign the petitions or engage with your local government to ask for better transparency on police tech in general. There also seem to be many city council meetings coming up on stingray use. The biggest thing you can do is show that you care about it and are concerned.

zasasa3 karma

Considering how much control the government seem to have of our lives, do you think the technology exists for analyzing brainwaves and reading someones mind? And do you think wearing a tinfoil hat might prevent the government from doing just that?

opentechinstitute3 karma

I'm pretty sure chemtrails already exist. I suggest not going outside when a plane is overhead.

AeternumFlame1 karma

To lighten the mood (and because I need good recommendations), I have to ask what are your favorite TV series?

opentechinstitute2 karma

And of course Stranger Things

lemonlymon5161 karma

Who decides to put up the stingray towers in the first place? Is it the police or the city or who?

MediaJustice3 karma

Stingrays are mobile, so although they mimic a tower, they're not stationary like a tower. In most cases they're installed into some sort of vehicle so that it can be deployed to any location.

lemonlymon5161 karma

So like someone is in a van? You mean every time I see someone's WiFI that says "FBI Surveillance Van 1" it's a stingray device? NOOOOO

opentechinstitute6 karma

I think "FBI Surveillance Van 1" is fine, that's probably just your clever neighbor. I'd watch out for "FBI Surveillance Van 2" or "FBI Surveillance Van 3."