Compliance Management, Threat Management, Privacy

MIT professor proposes using stingray devices to track gunshots

A recently approved patent on a gunshot detection system has privacy advocates concerned about what we are willing to sacrifice to catch criminals. MIT Physics Professor John Winston Belcher's June 22 patent is for a device that would trigger cell site simulator or stingray surveillance tools in the area near the gunshot was detected.

Typically, law enforcement agencies use sensors and microphones attached to street lights and utility poles to determine the area of gunshots and to track down shooters within an area however, these methods rely on a human to confirm the sound was indeed a gunshot.

Once the gunshot location is determined, the control system may automatically trigger activation of one or more cell site simulators located near the location of the gunshot to identify mobile communication devices within the vicinity,” according to the patent. “Further precision in identifying the locations of the mobile communication devices may be obtained by using information from radio frequency (RF) sensors that intercept wireless RF transmissions from the mobile communication devices communicating with the activated cell site simulator.”

The proposed device raises suspicion due to several jurisdictions requiring warrants to use stingray devices and because of the indiscriminate nature in which the devices collect personal data.  

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