The Latest Example Of Chicago Police Allegedly Behaving Badly Comes Courtesy of Anonymous, Privacy Activists

By Jon Graef in News on Dec 7, 2014 7:15PM

2014_10_2_stingray.jpg
A Stingray. (Photo via extremetech.com)

The latest example of Chicago Police reportedly behaving badly comes courtesy of Anonymous and privacy activists. This time, Chicago Police are alleged to be spying on activists at recent protests, including at Thursday's action against police violence, using cell site simulators—known as "Stingrays." [That's one at the top of the post.]

PrivacySos cited a post from from an activist who took a picture of what appears to be a police truck with a radar on top.

"It keeps [following] the protest. And It messes up my phone when it drives by," activist Page May wrote on Twitter.

PrivacySos later updated its post to include an audio recording of Chicago police officers that, though from a Black Friday protest, was leaked by Anonymous on Saturday, December 6th. The activists argue the recording and the picture of the truck corroborate their claims police officers are spying on activists. [Hey, everybody, the '70s are back!]

Here's what's been transcribed from the recording:

Dispatch: “CPIC [Chicago police’s spy ‘fusion’ center] on the air for a mobile” Officer 1: “Go ahead” Officer 2: “Yeah one of the girls, an organizer here, she’s been on her phone a lot. You guys picking up any information, uh, where they’re going, possibly?” Officer 1: “Yeah we’ll keep an eye on it, we’ll let you know if we hear anything.” Officer 2: “10-4. They’re compliant, and they’re, they’re doing ok now but she’s spending a lot of time on the phone.” Officer 1: “10-4”

A two-minute recording can be found here . "The transmissions pointing to real-time wiretapping involve the local DHS-funded spy 'fusion' center," wrote PrivacySos.

CBS 2's Mike Krauser explains how the technology works:

The technology essentially puts up a wall between the user’s phone and their provider, forcing phones in the immediate area to send data to the police instead of the nearest cell towers. ... Some protestors have said that when the OEMC vehicle, which they believe to be sting-ray equipped, was nearby, their phones weren’t working properly

Of Stingrays, the ACLU writes, "[l]aw enforcement agencies all over the country possess Stingrays, though their use is often shrouded in secrecy."

Because of that secrecy, Freddy Martinez filed not one, but two lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department regarding its use of Stingrays. The first, from June, "garnered a meager three pages of invoices that show CPD purchased the technology," our Aaron Cynic wrote. The second suit was filed in October.

Like all technology, these trackers do have their helpful uses. Sources told the Sun-Times back when Freddy Martinez filed the first suit that "Chicago Police investigators use" cell site simulators like "TriggerFish to determine the location of cellphones in real time," which is helpful to "track down kidnapping victims when every second is critical."

But, also like all technology, it can be misused. Given the CPD's history toward spying, both past and present, these new allegations seem all too credible.