WSJ: “Cessnas massively target US cell phone users”

The US Department of Justice uses Cessna aircraft equipped with antennas to massively scoop loads of cell phone data and their users on a frequent basis. Although intended to catch perpetrators of various criminal offenses, the small propeller spy planes collect all information of all mobile phones in a certain area during their flight.

At least that what the Wall Street Journal published on 14 November 2014 basing its information on reliable sources with insight in the proces. According to the iconic newspaper the Cessnas take off from at least five airfields on a regular basis. During each flight privacy sensitive information and the whereabouts of at least 50,000 cell phone users is collected. The aircraft are said to mimic a mobile phone network tower, with cell phones connecting automatically to it as long as its user hasn’t changed the security and network selection settings of his or her digital assistant.

Like with regular mobile network antennas, the pimped Cessnas are likely able to geographically locate any cell phone user within a 10 to 30 feet (3 – 10 metres) range, making apprehension of larger number of suspects in a short time possible.

If true the American way to target mobile phone users massively raises questions about whether or not this technique is used in more countries. In some – like f.ex. Sweden – authorities have limited or full legal rights to do so, but such aerial surveillance might interfere with ethical or freedom rules of its society.

At the time of this writing did not have any confirmation of the type of Cessna being used, but we assume the cell phone spy flights could be very well flown by low-cost and slow-moving Cessna 172s like pictured above.

© 2014 editor Marcel Burger

A Cessna 172 taking off from Catalina (Image (PD) Karl Dickman)
A Cessna 172 taking off from Catalina (Image (PD) Karl Dickman)