BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Accessing your data. Baltimore City police have been using technology to tap into thousands of cell phones.
Alex DeMetrick reports the secret deal with the FBI even keeps judges in the dark.
Whether we’re talking or texting, it’s computerized data cell phones are transmitting. That includes where they are, and where they’re going.
Normally, it’s the nearest cell phone tower that picks it up–unless it’s Baltimore City police.
An FBI document ended up in a Baltimore courtroom Wednesday, detailing an agreement in 2011 between the then-police commissioner, state’s attorney and the Justice Department.
The deal–track cell phones with technology that mimics a cell phone tower, but lets police listen in. And–don’t tell anybody about it.
“To mislead judges and defense attorneys about how evidence is being collected in criminal cases. That’s just staggering,” said David Rocah, Baltimore ACLU.
While the FBI demanded secrecy, the technology to track is easy enough to find on the internet. The fact that police have used it 4,300 times in Baltimore is now on the street.
“I think it’s a violation of everybody’s privacy to be spying on people’s cell phones and that it’s against our constitutional rights,” one woman said.
The technology not only tracks–it can also call in, opening a phone to what’s inside and not just the suspects.
“It takes over every phone within range,” said Rocah.
The FBI would not comment, but Baltimore police tried to reassure the public.
“This isn’t about reading their emails, seeing text messages, pulling pictures–any of that sort of thing. But this is really about finding some of the most violent criminals in the city, tracking them down,” said Captain Eric Kowalczyk,” Baltimore City Police Department.
How many suspects the technology tracked down and how many were arrested apparently remains classified to protect the technology.
The revelation the police were using the technology secretly was first reported by our media partner The Baltimore Sun after a city detective testified about if the first time Wednesday in open court.