from the messed-with-the-wrong-guy's-phone dept
Chicago attorney Jerry Boyle -- notably not representing himself -- is suing the city of Chicago and a number of police officials for constitutional violations stemming from the PD's Stingray use. It's a potential class action suit, but Boyle -- at least in his own case -- claims to have pinpointed exactly when his phone signal was intercepted by the police. Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica points out this detail in the lawsuit's claims:
The 32-page lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Chicago on Thursday, specifically notes where and when the stingray was used, on January 15, 2015, “at approximately 8:00pm at the protest, near the 2200 block of West Ogden Avenue.”
However, the civil complaint does not explain exactly how the plaintiff knows this information.
“The evidence regarding CPD's use at that event is something that will be disclosed during the litigation,” Matt Topic, one of Boyle’s lawyers, e-mailed Ars.
The allegations [PDF] don't contain any clue as to what exactly Boyle used to determine his phone signal was being intercepted, but there are more than few choices available to the privacy-conscious who may want to know if and when their signal is being rerouted. Hackers have put together their own tools to detect fake cell towers and SRLabs has produced an app called SnoopSnitch that puts that power right in your cellphone.
What's undisputed is that the Chicago PD is in possession of regular IMSI catchers, as well as souped-up versions known as DRTboxes. Thanks to crowd-sourced FOIA activity, it's also known this equipment has been purchased with asset forfeiture funds in an effort to keep the PD's surveillance purchases from leaving as wide of a paper trail.
What can also be inferred from the allegations is that the Chicago PD deployed its surveillance equipment on participants in First Amendment-protected activity, which may only add to the Constitutional fallout of this lawsuit. This surveillance also occurred more than a year before state legislation was passed requiring court orders for Stingray deployments.
It will also be interesting to see what Boyle delivers as evidence his phone signal was grabbed by a Chicago PD Stingray. This will be essential to prove standing. Unfortunately, it will also have to be matched up with Stingray records held by the PD, which won't have much interest in turning those over to the court and possibly having them be made public.
There's also a chance the PD won't have any records of this deployment. If the Stingray was searching for a specific number or numbers, it could have been in "catch and release" mode where every nearby number was grabbed by the cell tower spoofer, but only data related to the targeted numbers retained.
Considering the years of opacity surrounding its Stingray use, this isn't going to be a fun legal battle for the Chicago PD. You can pretty much assume the FBI will take the lead in deciding what can or can't be presented in open court, as it has been granted this control with the non-disclosure agreement it makes every Stingray-purchasing law enforcement agency sign before it will allow them to deploy these devices.