Cellphone Surveillance Gear Floods U.S. Cities – CityLab – And such spy gear is not limited to Chicago. Hundreds of documents obtained by CityLab from the country’s top fifty largest police departments over the last ten months reveal that similar cellphone surveillance devices have been quietly acquired by local authorities nationwide.
The majority of these departments have at least one of two main types of digital-age spy tools: cellphone interception devices, used to covertly track or grab data from nearby mobile devices, and cellphone extraction devices, used to crack open locked phones that are in police possession and scoop out all sorts of private communications and content.
Access to such devices was once largely limited to intelligence agencies like the NSA and the FBI; their acquisition by local police departments is a relatively recent, less-discussed part of a wider police militarization trend. With only a few clicks, police can now map out individuals’ social networks, communication timelines, and associates’ locations, based on the data captured by these surveillance tools.