Mobile Tracking Software Used by Police: What You Need to Know
Mobile tracking software is a type of technology that allows law enforcement agencies to locate, monitor, and access data from mobile devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Mobile tracking software can be used for various purposes, such as investigating crimes, preventing terrorism, finding missing persons, and enforcing parole conditions. However, mobile tracking software also raises serious concerns about privacy, civil liberties, and due process. In this article, we will explore some of the most common types of mobile tracking software used by police, how they work, and what are the potential risks and benefits of their use.
Stingrays are devices that mimic cell phone towers and trick mobile devices into connecting to them. By doing so, stingrays can capture information such as phone numbers, location data, call logs, and text messages. Stingrays can also interfere with or block cell phone signals, preventing users from making or receiving calls. Stingrays are used by law enforcement agencies to track people's movements, identify suspects and associates, and collect evidence. However, stingrays also affect innocent bystanders' devices within their range, potentially violating their privacy and constitutional rights. Stingrays are used by 75 police departments in 27 states, according to the ACLU[^2^]. Fourteen national agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, and the IRS are also known to use stingrays[^2^].
Cellebrite is a company that provides mobile forensics software and hardware to law enforcement agencies. Cellebrite's products can extract and analyze data from mobile devices, such as contacts, photos, videos, emails, social media posts, browsing history, passwords, and deleted files. Cellebrite can also bypass security features such as encryption, PIN codes, and biometric locks. Cellebrite is used by law enforcement agencies to access what's stored on mobile devices of suspects or victims, and to find clues or evidence for their investigations. However, Cellebrite also poses risks of data breaches, hacking, misuse, or abuse by unauthorized parties. Cellebrite has been used by law enforcement agencies in over 150 countries[^3^].
Fog Reveal is a software tool that uses advertising identification numbers (ADIDs) to track mobile devices. ADIDs are unique identifiers that are assigned to mobile devices by apps that target ads based on a person's movements and interests. Fog Reveal collects ADIDs from hundreds of apps such as Waze and Starbucks[^1^], and uses them to create location analyses known among law enforcement as "patterns of life". Fog Reveal can track people's movements months back in time[^1^], and can link multiple devices to the same person[^1^]. Fog Reveal is used by law enforcement agencies to follow suspects' activities, identify potential witnesses or accomplices, and corroborate or refute alibis. However, Fog Reveal also raises questions about transparency, accountability, and legality of its use. Fog Reveal is rarely mentioned in court records[^1^], making it harder for defense attorneys to challenge its validity or reliability. Fog Reveal has been used by local law enforcement agencies from suburban Southern California to rural North Carolina since at least 2018[^1^].
Mobile tracking software used by police is a powerful and controversial technology that can help solve crimes and protect public safety. However, it can also infringe on people's privacy and civil rights, and expose them to potential harm or abuse. Therefore, it is important for citizens to be aware of how mobile tracking software works, how it is used by police, and what are the legal and ethical implications of its use. 061ffe29dd