Bluetooth snooping tech lets Texas cops monitor units at borders

WTF?! If you have been wherever close to the Texas-Mexico border lately with a telephone, wi-fi earbuds, or some other Bluetooth-enabled gadget, there’s an opportunity the feds had been preserving tabs on you. At least two counties within the Lone Star State have applied an extremely invasive surveillance system that detects and tracks units by tapping into their Bluetooth indicators.

The know-how, referred to as TraffiCatch, comes from a German firm referred to as Jenoptik. It permits legislation enforcement to primarily detect any Bluetooth and Wi-Fi indicators within the space and log the distinctive identifiers broadcast by these units, in line with publicly accessible contract information uncovered by the information outlet NOTUS. By combining that information with automated license plate readers already deployed all alongside the border, TraffiCatch can theoretically observe folks’s actions, even when they swap autos.

Webb County, residence to the border metropolis of Laredo, has reportedly had this Bluetooth monitoring functionality since at the least 2019.

The know-how works by capturing Bluetooth addresses which are periodically broadcasted by all Bluetooth units. Some units use static addresses that by no means change, making them simple to trace persistently. But even devices utilizing rotating random addresses can probably be correlated over time if the particular person can be carrying a tool with a public handle.

Jenoptik primarily presents TraffiCatch as a device for legislation enforcement to “find individuals of curiosity associated to recorded crimes within the space” by merging registration number plate information with detected Bluetooth indicators. However, the system does not discriminate – it may well seize any Bluetooth emissions inside vary from harmless bystanders as nicely.

This important enlargement of surveillance state overreach in border communities was made attainable, partially, due to funding from Operation Stonegarden, a federal grant program that incentivizes native police departments to help border patrol efforts. Last yr alone, Stonegarden awarded $90 million to legislation enforcement companies in Texas and different border states.

We’ve already seen how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deployed Stingray units, which masquerade as official cell towers to trick telephones into connecting and revealing their places and identities. Adding Bluetooth monitoring into the combination simply provides one other extremely intrusive and indiscriminate monitoring functionality to frame communities already subjected to disproportionate over-policing.

So the subsequent time you are wandering round these border areas, you may wish to contemplate turning off your devices’ connectivity options – except, in fact, you are comfy with Big Brother monitoring your actions.

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