The Associated Press reported new details on secret surveillance flights being conducted by the FBI, including how the agency registers aircrafts with fake companies to conceal their role.
A recent review conducted by the AP found that over a “recent 30-day period” the FBI flew over 100 flights over 30 cities in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Most of the missions were with Cessna 182T Skylane aircrafts. They were flown over Boston, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle and parts of Southern California.
The planes carried video surveillance equipment as well as Stingray surveillance equipment or cell-site simulator gear, which creates a dragnet and enables the FBI to trick cellphones in a given area into providing identification information to agents.
Unlike the agency’s drone fleet, piloted aircraft is not subject to the Justice Department’s policy barring drones from being used to monitor “First Amendment activities,” which may partly explain why the secret flights have been spotted over cities where communities have protested killings by police.
Sam Richards, an independent journalist, first reported that the FBI was flying secret missions over cities with aircraft registered to fake companies.
“The aircraft have been registered to corporations that do not exist, and the purpose of the aerial operations is not known at this time. The flight patterns of the aircraft indicate they are most likely conducting surveillance, much like the controversial aircraft caught flying circles over the city of Baltimore which has seen many protests recently,” Richards reported on May 25.
Richards searched “aircraft registration” in Bristow, Virginia, and found many “three-letter acronym companies.” A few of the aircrafts listed were “registered explicitly to the Department of Justice.” He decided the companies had to be fake when his searches for information on the Internet were “fruitless.” He also noticed that the flight patterns—repeated circles around a city—indicated these planes were likely involved in surveillance missions. (more…)
Myrna Arias, a sales executive who lives in Kern County, California, is suing Intermex, a wire-transfer company, for wrongful termination, claiming that she was fired for refusing to install a tracking app on her smartphone that would monitor her off-hours location.
According to a Courthouse News Service report that describes the lawsuit, Intermex recruited Ms. Arias while she was working for Netspend, a money-transfer competitor. She requested that Intermex allow her to continue work with Netspend in order to maintain health benefits during a new-hire waiting period, and Intermex agreed. A couple of months into her new employment, her boss, Intermex’s regional vice president of sales John Stubits, told Arias and other employees that they would have to download an app from Xora onto their smartphones that “contained a global positioning system function which tracked the exact location of the person possessing the smartphones on which it was installed.” When she refused, she was fired. Intermex then called Netspend and informed them of her overlapping employment- and Netspend fired her as well. Courthouse News Service explains:
Arias says in her complaint that she researched the app and asked Stubits if Intermex would be tracking her whereabouts when she was off the clock.
“Stubits admitted that employees would be monitored while off duty and bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments ever since she had installed the app on her phone,” Arias says in her complaint. “Plaintiff expressed that she had no problem with the app’s GPS function during work hours, but she objected to the monitoring of her location during non-work hours and complained to Stubits that this was an invasion of her privacy. She likened the app to a prisoner’s ankle bracelet and informed Stubits that his actions were illegal. Stubits replied that she should tolerate the illegal intrusion because Intermex was paying plaintiff more than NetSpend.”
Stubits also told Arias she had to keep her phone on “24/7″ to assist clients, and “scolded” her when she uninstalled the app to protect her privacy, the complaint adds.
Arias says Intermex fired her a few weeks later
Arias objected to the app because there was no way to turn it off when she was at home. Even if she shut down the app on her phone, it would still be running in the background, Glick said.
“She found it very offensive that they were treating her like a felon,” she added. “She was not underperforming, so there was no reason to monitor her.”
To make matters worse, Glick said, Intermex was so angry at her objection to the app that it went “above and beyond a normal wrongful termination and interfered with her ability to earn a livelihood.”
Arias says in her complaint that Robert Lisy, Intermex’s president and CEO, “telephoned John Nelson, vice president of NetSpend, and informed Nelson that plaintiff had been disloyal to NetSpend and was employed by Intermex. As a result of Lisy’s intentional and malicious interference with plaintiff’s contract with NetSpend, NetSpend fired plaintiff promptly. NetSpend specifically cited Lisy’s phone call as the reason for the decision to terminate plaintiff,” the complaint states.
Ms. Arias’s lawsuit claims violation of the right to privacy and California labor laws, unfair business practices, and wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
Should companies be allowed to track workers’ movements on and off the clock with smartphone apps?