Technology has a dark side. While it has made our lives easier in a lot of ways, it also opens us up to brand new threats to privacy. And, criminals aren't the only ones you have to worry about. Police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the country are using extremely invasive tech to hack into your cellphones. The FCC is starting to look into this, but the company that makes and sells these gadgets is being extremely secretive.
The gadgets are technically IMSI catchers, but they're commonly known as "stingrays." That's because the StingRay is a popular model produced Harris Corporation, a major supplier for law enforcement agencies around the country. The company also produces varieties with equally slick names like TriggerFish and HailStorm. These gadgets intercept your cellphone signal and let police listen in on calls, read texts and even track your phone's location!
It's difficult to stop these hacks, because they can occur without your knowledge. I told you about a special smartphone that can detect IMSI catchers, but it costs $3,500.
To make and sell a gadget as exotic as StingRay, Harris Corporation had to apply for permission from the FCC. In its original 2010 application to sell IMSI catchers, the company claimed it was only providing the gadgets to be used in "emergency situations" by law enforcement. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging that claim. It has come out in recent years that police departments have abused the surveillance power of the gadgets, used them outside of emergency situations and even used them without a warrant.