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Thanks to some of the more incredible leaps in technology that we’ve experienced over the course of the last several years, Americans are more concerned than ever about their privacy.

In some instances, the worry could easily be eliminated by simple behavioral changes.  Maybe Facebook doesn’t need to know about every little detail of your life, nor do you necessarily need to use the social media platform to sign into other applications simply for the sake of simplicity.  Maybe using RFID-equipped debit cards for every purchase may not be the best idea, either.  Maybe having a few actual dollars in your pocket will come back into style sometime soon.

There are some situations, however, that we have no control over when it comes to fellow man spying on us.  That is precisely the predicament recently uncovered in Washington D.C., where phony cell phone towers have been discovered that are capable of recording and storing intercepted phone calls.

For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminals could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages.

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The use of what are known as cellphone-site simulators by foreign powers has long been a concern, but American intelligence and law enforcement agencies — which use such eavesdropping equipment themselves — have been silent on the issue until now.

In a March 26 letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation’s capital. The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where.

The agency’s response, obtained by The Associated Press from Wyden’s office, suggests little has been done about such equipment, known popularly as Stingrays after a brand common among U.S. police departments. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the nation’s airwaves, formed a task force on the subject four years ago, but it never produced a report and no longer meets regularly.

So, not only are American citizens being targeted by the bizarre and nefarious devices, but there can be little doubt left that their placement within the nation’s capital is no coincidence either.

A virtual and undetectable fly on the wall of every cell phone conversation within a certain circumference of the device?  In the nation’s capital?  There should be no doubt that these recordings could be profoundly affecting the integrity of our political process, and knowing now how little is being done to prevent their continued operation is more than slightly worrisome.



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