If you're like a lot of people, you've probably worried for many years about the government spying on you. Maybe it was just a nagging feeling you had, or you had those fears confirmed by a documentary or news report about the government spying on everyday people.
Of course, we now know more than ever that the government, police and probably even the IRS may be spying on you, your family and everyone else. Much of that came to light when Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency has been tracking phone records without permission; an action that will soon be discontinued.
But that hasn't stopped the government and police from spying on you. In fact, they've got a device called a StingRay, which is essentially a portable, luggage-sized cellphone tower. Once they have a good idea where you are, they switch to a portable device to track you down, to as precisely as a specific room in a building.
Newly released documents reveal just how much the government has authorized agencies to spy on you with StingRays. Those details were outlined by the Department of Justice in 2008, but they're just now coming to light.
StingRays are intended to do good, meaning intercepting calls from suspected criminals and terrorists. The devices can track incoming and outgoing calls, intercept calls, listen in and read text messages. They can also track computers with wireless connections.
As with many of the government's good intentions, your privacy is obviously at risk. Who's spying on your calls?
Newly released 2008 documents from the Justice Department outline how government agencies are supposed to use StingRay technology. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California had been requesting the documents for years.
To use StingRays, government agencies have to get request pen register/trap and trace orders from the courts. A pen device is used to record numbers called, while trap and trace devices record incoming numbers.
Justice says it can only track the devices, not the contents of those calls. Unless it gets court permission to wiretap.
However, under exceptional circumstances, Justice says, government agencies don't need to do any of that. In those cases, they can apply for a court order up to 24 hours after the emergency.