Civic News
Crime / Technology

CityLab details more ‘cellphone spy tools’ used by Baltimore police

A new report details more controversial surveillance tactics used by local police.

The "stingray" device acts like a cellphone tower. (Photo via Harris Corp.)

The Baltimore Police Department’s use of the cellphone-tracking device known as the stingray has gotten a lot of attention from judges and in the General Assembly. The cell site simulator’s ability to act as a cell tower and sweep up cellphone info in a wide area shed light on a controversial police-tech tactic.
But the reports about surveillance tools keep coming. CityLab found that there are other cellphone-tracking devices used by police in Baltimore city and Baltimore County.
A records request by The Atlantic publication revealed additional details about “cellphone spy tools” used by police in departments around the country. Here’s what we learned about local police:

  • Baltimore city police acquired a cellphone extraction device made by the Israeli firm Cellberite. These forensics devices allow police to collect data from a phone, whether on the phone or deleted.
  • Baltimore County purchased a device in 2012 from Boeing subsidiary Digital Receiver Technology. While the purchase order is redacted, CityLab says the device is likely a Dirtbox, which is basically a more powerful stingray. They can also be mounted on planes or helicopters.
  • There was also more info about costs. The records show Baltimore city spent about $307,000 on tools from 2008-2011. Baltimore County spent $135,071.
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