Cellphone tower dumps: Is your personal info safe?


INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER TODD DYKES JOINS US WITH A LOOK AT HOW DETECTIVES ARE USING CELL PHONE DATA, AND WHY THE PRACTICE MAKES PRIVACY ADVOCATES NERVOUS. TODD: POLICE CALL IT AN INVESTIGATIVE TOOL FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY. IT INVOLVES WHAT’S KNOWN AS A TOWER DUMP. BUT IT RAISES PLENTY OF QUESTIONS ABOUT WHO HAS ACCESS TO YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION. IN CITIES LIKE CINCINNATI CELL TOWERS ARE EVERYWHERE. YOU MAY NOT REALIZE IT, BUT POLICE AGENCIES CAN USE THOSE TOWERS TO TRACK YOU AS THEY FOCUS IN ON CRIMINAL ACTIVITY. WE’RE IN A PERIOD OF AMERICAN HISTORY NOW WHERE GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE IS GREATER THAN IT’S EVER BEEN. TODD: INCREASINGLY POLICE ARE ASKING CELL PHONE COMPANIES FOR WHAT ARE CALLED TOWER DUMPS. THIS IS METADATA THAT IS CAPTURED BY YOUR DIFFERENT CELL PHONE PROVIDERS. TODD: IF A CRIME HAPPENS DOWNTOWN FOR EXAMPLE POLICE CAN ASK A CELL PROVIDER FOR A LIST OF PHONES WHICH WERE ACTIVE AT THE TIME. THE GOAL IS TO MATCH A SUSPECT’S INFORMATION WITH CELL DATA WHICH MAY LINK THEM TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME. IF WE IDENTIFY A HIGH PROFILE INVESTIGATION WHERE WE BELIEVE CAPTURING THAT DATA CAN HELP US SOLVE CASES IN THE FUTURE WE WILL DO SO. TODD: BUT IN ADDITION TO POSSIBLY CAPTURING THE CELL NUMBER OF A CRIMINAL, TOWER DUMPS ALSO CAPTURE THE PHONE NUMBERS OF THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE. THE CONCERN OF GROUPS LIKE THE ACLU OF OHIO IS WHAT ARE THEY DOING WITH ALL THIS DATA WITH ALL THE PEOPLE THAT THEY’RE NOT LOOKING FOR? TODD: AS A LOBBYIST FOR THE ACLU GARY DANIELS FIGHTS FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY WHEN IT COMES TO WHAT POLICE DEPARTMENTS STATEWIDE ARE DOING WITH THE KIND OF CELL DATA THEY COLLECT. I DO UNDERSTAND THERE’S A GREAT CONCERN OUT THERE. TODD: AND THIS ISN’T A PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENT. THIS TECHNOLOGY IS IN USE, HERE IN CINCINNATI. SOURCES TELL ME CINCINNATI POLICE REQUESTED TOWER DUMPS AFTER SOMEONE SHOT AT THE GREAT AMERICAN TOWER LAST YEAR, A CRIME WHICH SHATTERED WINDOWS AND NERVES. WHY WOULD ANYBODY DO SUCH A THING. REPORTER: SHAKIRA WELLS WORKS AT IN BETWEEN TAVERN, ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE OFFICE COMPLEX. WE DIDN’T KNOW WHICH WAY THEY’D BE SHOOTING NEXT. TODD: CINCINNATI POLICE ASSISTANT CHIEF PAUL NEUDIGATE WOULD NOT CONFIRM CELL DATA WAS REQUESTED IN THE GREAT AMERICAN TOWER CASE. THOUGH HE DID TELL ME IT’S THE KIND OF HIGH PROFILE INCIDENT WHICH COULD WARRANT A TOWER DUMP. THE OFFICERS THAT HAVE ACCESS TO THAT INFORMATION FROM THOSE TOWER DUMPS ARE VERY LIMITED. TODD: BUT SINCE THERE’S BEEN NO ARREST, SHAKIRA WELLS WONDERS WHY HER INFORMATION HAS TO BE CAPTURED IN THE FIRST PLACE. I THINK THERE’S A LOT OF PERSONAL DATA JUST FLOATING AROUND, AND I DON’T THINK IT’S RIGHT, BUT IN ORDER TO CATCH SOMEONE? YEAH. TODD: CINCINNATI POLICE SAY IN AN EFFORT TO EASE PEOPLE’S PRIVACY CONCERNS, THEY GET A SIGNED SEARCH WARRANT FOR TOWER DUMPS. THAT’S A HIGHER LEGAL THRESHOLD THAN NECESSARY. TOWER DUMPS ARE NOT USED OFTEN BECAUSE THEY’RE EXPENSIVE. I’VE LEARNED OF ONLY ONE OTHER INSTANCE A HOMICID E

One Reply to “Cellphone tower dumps: Is your personal info safe?”

  1. junk science , this is a flawed method of gathering accurate info on a individual and should not be used period.

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