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Court Fight Exposes FBI Tool

A secret surveillance tool used by the U.S. FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) on smartphones and cell phones in general is being fought over in a legal battle that contends the existence of such an instrument serves as a breach of privacy and citizens' rights. As a result of this courtroom drama, more insight in regards to how the infamous technology works and the extent that Verizon Wireless assisted federal agents in using the tool track down a suspected criminal has come to light. Identity thief Daniel David Rigmaiden's case had court documents that outlined how Verizon reached out in a remote manner to do air-card reprogramming that the suspect used to make it communicate with the surveillance instrument.

Essentially, this advancement in wireless technology

Allowed for the capture of Rigmaiden because wireless providers like Verizon are now capable of reprogramming air cards that serve as a means for the FBI to locate and capture suspects outright. This can be (understandably) disconcerting for others in light of the fact that it allows the FBI free reign to listen in and locate people they're after without their knowledge, as though "Big Brother" truly exists in the 21st century. To reiterate, air cards are now reprogrammable so that they could be investigated by the FBI at their behest. Rigmaiden is incidentally the ringleader behind a tax fraud operation that was able to yield him over $4 million. 
 
Rigmaiden maintains that his incoming voice calls were "tapped" by the FBI via air card. He further claims that the reconfiguration of his card enabled the investigation industry to get his cell to connect to a bogus cellular site or stringray that was used as a GPS tracking device of sorts to find him. For those people who aren't in-the-know, air cards are gadgets that plug into PCs and laptops that use wireless cellular network providers to connect computers to the Worldwide Web. Even though these devices aren't phones, Rigmaiden discloses that Verizon air-card reprogramming enables the FBI to make use of the device as though it's a phone. 
 
Its reconfiguration enabled them to make voice calls via landline that the air card can, weirdly enough, respond to. As the bureau calls him, the gadget then proceeds to reveal his location via a series of pings as the contact between phone and card is established. As the incoming call arrived, the air card would proceed to disconnect from whatever cellular tower it's connected to, which would then send the real-time cell-site area data he's currently occupying directly to the phone company. It's a futuristic surveillance and tracking device all rolled into one.
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