Police in Toronto recently admitted to using an International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI). The device is commonly referred to as a Stingray.
The Stingray phone trackers are controversial because they capture data from private civilians.
Prior to the admission of using an IMSI, Toronto police denied the use of Stingrays. A spokesperson stated, “We do not use the Stingray technology and do not have one of the units.”
With the recent admission of the use of IMSI we now know this is not the case. Police have used Stingray technology for a number of cases including:
- Drug and gun
- Bank robbery
- Missing persons
HOW STINGRAY PHONE TRACKERS WORK
Police use Stingrays to indiscriminately capture cellular phone metadata. They capture the data of all cellular phones within a defined radius of the device.
These phone trackers trick cellular phones into believing that Stingrays are actually cellular phone towers. Then they communicate through these devices to the nearest real cellular towers.
While the communications pass through the Stingray the police servers capture and record all the metadata. This includes:
- Voice communication
- Text messages
THE PROBLEM WITH IMSI WIRETAPPING
The concern is that police capture all the data and private communications of every cellular phone within the radius of the Stingray. Every private citizen’s phone near the IMSI is being recorded. That is every text message, email and voice conversation.
Police indiscriminately capture private communications of everyone, not just those they’re investigating. The police have no judicial authorization to intercept these communications.
Some International Mobile Subscriber Identity devices can even send out signals that simulate a cellular phone provider’s identity. This causes the cellular phones to transmit back to the Stingray. That means that even if you’re not using your phone the Stingray can determine which phones are in the immediate area.