There are super-inexpensive RTL-SDR dongles that can be used to track airplanes such as this.
I'm not a lawyer, but I've fooled around with these dongles and a few programs enough to discern that Gov't aircraft absolutely need to broadcast their info on the 1090MHz band.
It wouldn't be much of a stretch to have a few people pop these up and see if they could monitor the airplanes that are monitoring the city! :)
Just to expand a little bit:
You get an SDR, plug it in and use a program like `dump1090` or FlightAware. The repurposed TV Tuner will then listen to data on 1090MHz and decode airplane's Active Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) messages.
The ADS-B messages typically contain flight callsign, location (lat,lon), altitude, heading, and a few other tidbits.
There's a really active community around things like this. 
1) If you are in the right area, Flight Radar 24 might actually give you the equipment for free. See here: http://www.flightradar24.com/free-ads-b-equipment for info.
2) It is unlikely that even aircraft that the government desires to be secret will stop broadcasting ADS-B anytime soon, as one of the major usages is avoiding mid-air collisions when airplanes are in airspace shared with commercial airliners. Secret surveillance planes might be unpopular, but they'll only be headline news if they were to run into a 757.
3) ADS-B broadcasts won't be required for all commercial airplane traffic in the US until 2020. As such, there's still quite a few airplanes without it, particularly those that airlines plan to retire within the next five years.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_dependent_surveillanc...  IIRC, the actual regulation is a requirement for ADS-B on all airplanes flying at 10K feet or above.
If you have a spare Android phone that you're not using anymore, you can even turn it into an ADS-B receiver:
It's used to keep other planes away from you.
If there's an ADS-B broadcast for a specific location, then the autopilot on all other airplanes will automatically avoid that location.
I've found pagers, police car radio, taxis, satellites, and airplanes.
It's pretty neat that a $10 usb stick can allow someone to listen in on such a variety of things.
Here in the future, the answer's no further than your smartphone! Where it's going, where it's from, what it's carrying, freight or passenger? If you're near an airport, how busy is the airport? Which runway is that plane landing on? How many runways are there? What size airplane can that runway handle?
Just general curiosity, really.
Basically, these were polite "black helicopters."
If they were up to something nefarious, you'd never know, no matter how sophisticated your ADS-B receiver is or what flightradar24 tells you.
I was able to pick up flights taking off from DC, quite a good trip away. 100 miles?
If you google [po box bristow va] you find FAA records for a bunch of other oddly named companies that all have similarly close-to-zero web presence and addresses that are PO Boxes in Bristow: FVX Research, NBR Aviation, NBY Productions, OBR Leasing, OTV Leasing, PSL Surveys, PXW Services. They all seem to like Cessna 182Ts.
If you Google the tail numbers of aircraft registered to those companies, you start to find forum and mailing list posts (often at sites that tilt toward paranoid/conspiracy/right wing, but not always) with people discussing these specific tail numbers and linking them to the FBI. Some of the supposed evidence includes details of radio communications that people have heard, e.g. talking about "being on station" or using callsigns that start with JENNA, JENA or ROSS, which are supposedly used by the FBI. Other posts claim that DOJ/FBI surveillance aircraft often squawk 4414 or 4415 on their transponders.
I monitor aircraft in Los Angeles using an RTL-SDR dongle. I keep a database of almost every transponder ping I receive. You can see some more info, analysis and examples of stuff I've seen (U-2, AF1, AF2, EXEC-1F, E-6 "Doomsday" planes) at http://viewer.gorilla-repl.org/view.html?source=github&user=... I decided to check my database for planes that have squawked 4414/4415 or used one of the suspicious callsigns: I found 8 aircraft in the past 2 months, several of which exhibit suspicious behavior: Flying for hours at a time without going anywhere in particular (I don't have position information for them, but I know they're in the air and not leaving the LA area), flying almost every day for months at a time, squawking 4414 or 4415, and one that used a JENNA callsign. 2 of them are registered to companies with PO Boxes in Bristow, VA. Another is registered to AEROGRAPHICS INC. 10678 AVIATION LN, MANASSAS VIRGINIA, which googling shows has also been linked to the FBI/DOJ. Several others are registered to WORLDWIDE AIRCRAFT LEASING CORP and NATIONAL AIRCRAFT LEASING CORP in Delaware, similar to other suspected FBI front companies (e.g. Northwest Aircraft Leasing Corp. in Newark, Delaware).
(I call what I'm doing "persistent sousveillance": using historical sensor data to retroactively identify and track new subjects, it's just that my subjects are the government. One of the surprising things I've found is that all you need to do is look: the weird stuff jumps out right away, e.g. Cessnas registered to fake-sounding companies that loiter overhead for hours every day.)
It's a lot of circumstantial evidence, but at this point it doesn't seem far-fetched that I'm monitoring aircraft involved in persistent FBI aerial surveillance.
My twitter has more info: https://twitter.com/lemonodor/status/595814966382469120
Edit: One other thing worth mentioning is that I was surprised at how many local news stories I turned up while googling these planes & companies that fit the template of "Citizens complain about mystery Cessna flying low, circling over their neighborhood".)
I know this is an unpopular opinion these days but the people working for these companies should be ashamed. There is little use for this technology, especially on US soil, except mass surveillance of the population.
As long as sufficient numbers of these people exist there will be not shortage of people who are not ashamed to staff the government agencies implementing these things and the private companies that support them. Some will even see it as a duty.
Sure, it could be used to perpetrate a Holocaust or something, but so could the 101st airborne.
If the government wanted to go all Hitler on us, they already can get google data, facebook data, medical records, essentially everything that is kept on you. Hell, I bet google location services tracks me better than a drone does (if the war in the Pakistan tribal areas is an example).
And drones are way easier to shoot down than googles datacenters.
Sure, it might be easier to exploit a webpages sql injection vuln to hijack your server, but does that mean you should stop running software updates?
In other words, yes, you need to fix google and all the rest, but that doesn't mean you should stop caring about other sorts of surveillance.
And, fwiw, not everyone uses those services for this reason.
There are tools people with power shouldn't have access to, because people with power do not have a good track record of using them in good faith.
If the government were going to use its power for evil, it'd go knocking on google/facebook/visa/amazon/comcast/grocery store/school/medical/whatever database to find its enemy.
What do you honestly think is a bigger risk for you? Getting murdered by a criminal or the US government via drone. Cause it's like 40k:2 for the past couple year.
Which is are the bigger risks for you? Getting your money taken from you by the government via fines or getting it stolen from you by a criminal? Being forced, under threat of imprisonment, to show up in a location at a specific time and account for your actions by the government or by a corporation, your work, your neighbor? Getting locked up in a basement by a criminal or locked up in a prison by the government?
We give the government quite a lot of power. It behooves us to ensure that power is kept in check.
The biggest direct threat to my freedom, and the freedom of the masses, is the expansion of executive power.
Times I've been arrested for expressing my views: 3
Times I've been murdered, injured or locked up by another person: 0
The government already uses the data the private sector collects. It wants better, real-time data using public and invasive techniques that aren't profitable for consumer businesses yet.
I am against both access to that data collected by the private sector and the expansion of mass surveillance.
The fact that the data exists is a problem and, ideally, we wouldn't live in a world where surveillance at this extreme for advertising was acceptable.
The fact that there are bad actors in one arena does not obviate the need to push back against bad actors in other arenas. Additionally, one could argue that if the government doesn't follow its own rules, it risks undermining its authority to enforce those rules for others.
Non-sequitor. The gov't doesn't use drones to murder people in the US. OTOH, the gov't does inform local authorities on citizens' behavior. Local authorities sometimes go and kick peoples' doors in based on these and other sources of information. Sometimes their information is faulty, sometimes they make another kind of error. It is terribly difficult to hold police accountable when a mistake or abuse has occurred.
The whole point of checks and balances is that the government doesn't do everything it can do, nor does it act as a unified whole. A bad actor in one branch can be held in check by a good actor in another. If the police/FBI/whomever wanted to storm a government center, it's theoretically up to a court to determine if that is legal and constitutional.
even so, there's no harm in supporting the opposition of surveillance efforts in case it might work.
Does the US govt ask Google and Apple for data from android and iphones which are in that area.
Not only that, but supplying the infrastructure for mass surveillance and security theater pays REALLY well.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
― Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda
I'm torn between the two positions. I really like the libertarian idea that the government's power should be limited and surveillance is scary and intrusive.
On the other hand I think the technologies are really cool. When license plate readers first started coming out I read a bunch of stuff about them and thought they were really fascinating. Same with facial recognition or speech recognition, etc.
I love the sci fi idea that we will eventually have a society with zero crime, besides crimes of passion or insane people. Anytime a crime happens, police could go back and see everything that happened. The utopia in the novel Manna had an extreme version of this. I thought it was really cool and challenged the standard cultural trope that surveillance is evil.
People today are so afraid of crime that they refuse to let their kids go outside (https://a248.e.akamai.net/f/1202/1579/4m/i.dailymail.co.uk/i...). People lock their doors and buy guns and live in fear. You can argue that it's not rational but that's not relevant. I'd really love to see the fear of crime disappear and this is a practical way to achieve that.
It should of course be a local issue. Some cities would have surveillance drones and others wouldn't. People could then vote with their feet to some extent and raise families where they felt the safest, and I think that's a desirable thing.
I think there should be balance. What most people fear is someone constantly watching them or listening to them. I think the cameras should only be reviewed after the fact when there is a crime, and the data deleted when they it's no longer relevant.
But I've never posted about my opinion on this before and I'm not likely to again. I'd just get shouted at and voted down as I've seen happen to others. People don't want to have a rational debate about this. They don't have a reason to be against surveillance, they just feel it's wrong and creepy and intrusive and mistrust the government. Or are scared they might not be able to get away with a crime if they needed to. And I feel all of those things too, which is why I said I'm torn.
Except for when you use phrases like "big data", "targeted marketing", "ad retargeting", "data science", "marketing optimization" or "marketing analytics" - in place of "mass surveillance". Then there'll be lots of people talking about and working on the problem.
There is no moral and fair reason for the government to secretly break their own laws, eavesdrop on private and privileged communications of their own citizens, and peer into areas previously designated as off-limits without a warrant. So mass surveillance itself isn't a huge problem, but the current implementation and the way it was put into place is.
So, these things do have other uses.
So in a wide area with lots of movement, it's ability to determine if something was a separate object or person, and interesting on top of that would be severely limited.
But this is just a SWAG.
All of them milk the heck out of every piece of data they got and each service they put out is designed to milk as much data as possible in the future.
Like it or not personal data and clever means of working with it is the new currency for many companies on the market these days.
And some of the stuff they pull off is just as shady as what the NSA and similar organizations do.
Heck at this point a better bet will to worry more about those companies than the NSA since for better or for worse the NSA still works for you, they are not planning a coup. Google and every other company out there wants to know as much as they can to not only "own you" financially but to ensure that they can direct virtually every step you take online and offline.
Where's the evidence? What does it even mean? It's like somebody came up with this line back in 2004 and then it never died from paranoia. How is said "data" packaged?
The "data" might help google help advertisers advertise better, but it's not like your Drive photos are being viewed by Ebay's ad department.
If I were Google, would I be salivating over all the stuff you uploaded to Drive? Like really, what would I do with it? Maybe there's a small opportunity to take advantage of some sort of data science to improve some sorts of algorithms... but really the overriding factor is that I just want to make a good product to encourage customer lock in, so they use the rest of my ecosystem and namely my search engine.
It's right to be wary of data collection, but the whole "anything that displays ads is by definition strictly an ad company and they will murder your children for the opportunity to sell your SSN" is senseless.
At least these companies provide something that we opt into. Equating it with hardware for actual spying against peaceful populations, I might actually consider evil.
Say PlanetBucks whats to increase the amount of Moppachinos you drink a day, how about paying Koogle to ensure that the routes it suggest when you walk to your friend bring you past one? How about Koogle not displaying information that they do not want you to see or how about Omgzon not showing you products from a country that decided not to give them a tax break last year?
Yes those are all far fetched scenarios, and yes they will not happen any time soon, but none of those scenarios are impossible today. And the scary part is that if those companies wanted to do this besides another Snowden you wouldn't be able to notice any of those activities.
Heck It didn't came as a surprise to me that the NSA have been spying on everyone and their mother, they've been caught doing so over and over, yes it's out of their immediate mandate but they are a spy agency, and they still work for the US government so no matter how far they stretch their grasp it's still limited by what the executive and judicial system will end up doing with it.
Content providers on the other hand? well they only care about bottom line profits, as long as they can continue to hook in people from infancy to be their stock they'll do it. Tobacco companies used give out cigarettes for free to everything from soldiers to school kids, yeah they also wanted to ensure that their products are great.
Also this always gives me a chuckle:
Yes the NSA (not directly) can put me in jail, but and that's a big but there still has to be a good enough reason to do it.
The NSA isn't some shadow government wanting to rule the world, they did some nasty stuff, some of it is probably illegal and for the rest they've surely stepped out of their boundaries with very loose interpretations of laws and executive orders but even the biggest critic of the NSA can't say they've done it for their own reasons and not in order to ensure the security of the United States.
And when people say well what if country X will become a brutal dictatorship, well in that case they can put you in jail on a whim, again this isn't a case for mass surveillance, or for the NSA it's just a simple truth. So while i do see the NSA spying on Americans on US soil a violation of their mandate, i don't see it as some mile stone in the US becoming North Korea or East Germany for that matter.
But back to Google et al, everything i buy, every peace of information i consume, half the people i talk to, how i get from place to place and what i get exposed to in the process, where i am know, and heck even what i type as we speak is being tracked, analyzed and stored not by the NSA but by the 100's of various companies from Google to that brand new hot machine learning add network startup that just won TechCruch Disrupt last week.
Yes they can't put me in jail, but the amount of control they can exert on you isn't that far from incarceration when you actually use it in it's broadest term, there are countries with prison systems that don't look like Riker's check out Bastøy Prison for example. ;)
If you want to go full on tin foil hat then 1984 describes an incarcerated society, and sorry but if you compare what the NSA to what Google et al. are doing to they the latter is much much closer to a proto 1984 society than the former.
The fact is, there's absolutely nothing wrong with a police department flying an airplane over an area under their jurisdiction with the intent of surveying the area as an intelligence gathering activity.
What's actually absurd is the idea that they shouldn't do this. What the hell might you cite as a reason they shouldn't?
They shouldn't fly an airplane over their jurisdiction without an express specific intent (e.g., hot criminal pursuit of an individual or individuals) because "gathering intelligence" is not their purpose. Are they in a warzone? Are their taxpaying funders now somehow their subjugated and subservient peoples? Why patrol the area as such?
"Intelligence" appears nowhere in the Public Laws of Baltimore that set out the Police Department's purpose (starting on pg. 73 of the PDF linked below).
How would you know when Bad Things are happening? Are you recommending they exclusively perform reactive services?
EDIT: How do you separate out:
1. People in the streets participating in marches. (maybe articuable suspicion)
2. People in the streets not participating in marches. (ipso facto no articuable suspicion)
3. People in their homes with their cell phones on. (ipso facto no articuable suspicion)
We need to consider the difference between ephemeral / archived (and searchable), not just public / private.
We're talking about a single organization having access to 24-hour video of every street in the city, with the ability to select and rewind every car and every person. It's fundamentally more powerful than public video snippets.
I don't find speeding cameras detestable, if indeed they are activated by staggered induction/magnetic sensors and are not simply 24/7 video recording cameras.
Not sure either of those things are true.
This is something a bit more insidious than simple crowd/crime spotting for ground units. As the article states, this airplane was likely utilizing a few privacy-smashing technologies such as an aerial Stingray (dirtbox) or an ARGOS camera suite, complete with individual identification and tracking for sustained periods of time.
Basically, imagine that airplane having the ability to identify individuals, then track their movements and actions around the city for the duration of its loiter time. Without a warrant. Without any oversight. See the problem?
What I am saying is there's nothing inherently wrong with arial surveillance, to the point where everyone who works for companies offering such services is "evil".
It's warrant-less and widespread data gathering and databases (be they license plates, phone records, image/video or what have you) for speculative use that has people concerned, that I've heard.
Flying in public airspace taking video of public locations is just another GoPro ad though. Except, apparently, when it's the police taking the video (though in fairness, the Supreme Court has restricted what police can look at and what sensors police can use, even from public airspace).
But, I've got a good solution: Strap the cameras onto the police officers in the plane and call it "body cameras" and all of a sudden it's 100% kosher progressive again, no?
(Cue an argument stating that, "Well, the operator of the drone is using their discretion!" Can the operator of the drone put forth a reasonable suspicion for all that they are recording information on?)
Which is nice, but aerial surveillance of that sort can be done by the local TV news station, or a local resident getting their general aviation training.
Arguing the police should not have extra surveillance powers certainly makes sense, but arguing the police cannot do something that anyone else in the public can do is where you start to lose the plot.
Practicality and availability is a non-negligible component of determining what a member of the public can actually do. Using military grade equipment on the presumably innocent general public, that is ~5+ years ahead of the tech on the market, is a disturbing phenomenon whose significance seems lost on you. No warrants, no articuable suspicion, yet it's OK to use these glorified, classified, and shady war toys on the general public?
I am being a bit disingenuous here: I don't expect all equipment used by government officials to be publicly available. But, if you are going to make the argument that the public can do what the police are doing here, that's equally disingenuous. The public cannot practically buy this equipment from the manufacturers. The public wouldn't be able to get a flight plan approved as quickly (or at all) given the circumstances. Most importantly, these aren't escaped murderers or criminals which would necessitate exigent means (like these glorified war toys): these are general citizens wandering around a downtown area. Police aren't funded by taxpayer dollars so they can be curious about what's going on around town, and in this case, in peoples' homes. Private citizens can do that to the extent permissible by trespass and decency laws. I would hope to see cases taken up the legal ladder that question the PD's actions on these sorts of terms.
Actually, yes they are. That's what "patrols" are for in the first place. We expect police to be familiar with the communities in which they serve.
You act as if police should police from an ivory tower somewhere, only coming out of their barracks when a 911 dispatcher authorizes them to. But that's actually more dystopian than the behavior you criticize here though (seriously, read about the "proles" in 1984 to see the similarities).
I agree with you: we expect and want police officers to be familiar with the communities in which they serve. However, a drone flying a mile in the sky over the entire city does nothing to further that familiarity. (To say nothing of their legality.) The familiarity should be person-to-person, socioeconomic group to socioeconomic group. Flying a drone in the sky only serves to stratify the position of the police and ostracize those whom they are obligated to serve. This is part of the larger issue of the militarization of local police departments. See the 1033 program.
I've read 1984 several times, and I fail to see the connection you're drawing between proles and this situation. The only (admittedly superficial) parallel I can draw between this situation is telescreens and the desire for authority to be omnipresent. Or, at a minimum drones help give the aura of of omnipresence, which is generally enough in 1984 to keep proles and outer party alike in line.
EDIT: Thank you for continuing to argue in good faith. I do not mean to be rude or condescending, but I can definitely see myself tending towards that. If so, I apologize. This is actually an interesting discussion despite being far from the original post (in both time and content).
I think this is where we actually start to diverge. Aerial surveillance (whether by drone or by manned aircraft) is an excellent way of directing limited police at actual problems (hopefully before they become crises) during tense situations.
As only one example, being able to see that a given protester group was substantially "imported" from out-of-town might change the appropriate response dynamic significantly from a protest where the protesters are all pouring onto the streets from their own communities. Beat cops should be familiar with the members of the latter group at least, but how can they be familiar with people who come in from out-of-town?
As far as legality, things may change with future rulings but as of this point the question's already been put before the Supreme Court, and the answer is that aerial surveillance is legal -- you just can't use sensors above-and-beyond the types of senses a patrolling cop might have walking around the street.
So perhaps high-zoom lenses would be ruled against at a court level (things like IR have already been struck down), but as a general principle the law is already clear on this (in favor of the police).
> I fail to see the connection you're drawing between proles and this situation
The proles were kept more or less completely alone to rot in their own slums as long as they didn't do anything to draw the attention of the Party. They didn't even have to worry about telescreens, they were simply apart from the government completely for better and for worse, left to fend for themselves as best they could.
In 1984's world that would probably be a better fate than being in the outer Party, but my point is that in the real world one of the responsibilities of functioning governments is to forestall security crises by acting before crises appear. You can't do that without at least paying attention to what's going on outside the police HQ, and during riot situations there's no way to stay aware of what's going on in the community by just sending out a beat cop to go make a round.
If we were talking about a normal day in a normal city then I think I'd agree completely that police shouldn't just be having drones hover around taking livefeeds of downtown (though it would probably be legal barring future statute changes or court rulings). But Baltimore during the riots wasn't a normal city going through just another day, there were literally state military forces walking through the city to help keep order...
Yes, yes it is. It isn't at all clear that the potential benefits of allowing it outweigh the potential costs.
So I am citing as a reason they should not do this the traditions and precedents of common law.
While automated license plate readers may be collecting the same information that police officers can from a public vantage point, the scale that they can be used at changes the nature of the information. Suddenly it can be used to track the movements of everyone in a city. While it's arguably the "same" information, it vastly changes the calculus of the public benefit vs privacy of the individual.
We ought to be having a deliberate debate about how to change our laws to reflect the fundamental differences these new technologies bring about. While it may be legal for law enforcement to fly these surveillance missions now, the public has every right to demand that the laws be changed. The police in Baltimore have proven they are incapable of wielding the privileged status they have without systematically oppressing minorities. It makes sense that we roll back some of the surveillance tools they use to prevent dissent.
Yes, but the powers-that-be are content to let it all happen by default, because most potential outcomes lets them win. If we just shrug and ignore it, they win. If we wait too long to take action, they can argue that the surveillance is understood and that we've grown used to it, and thus under conventional 4th Amendment analysis, there's no more expectation of privacy.
Really, the only way they can lose is by putting the question forward for debate.
I don't disagree with you, but this doesn't seem like a good argument.
Very true, I agree.
However, I don't see any reason why this would be taking place given what we currently know. Arial surveillance has the distinct advantage of safely observing a public area under their jurisdiction.
So yes, they shouldn't avoid warrants by way of arial surveillence (e.g. peeping into back yards), but it's (practically speaking) useful to cover a lot of ground (the same ground they'd already cover) quickly.
If they're trying to read the heat coming off of buildings, or laser-micing windows, or otherwise trying to look into areas that are not public, they need to knock it off and get a warrant based on probable cause first.
And again, what you do in public is available for anyone who cares to look.
Me, I find it very hard to get worked up over someone recording what I'm doing in public.
Consider the case of license-reading cameras. Not intrusive, right? But that data, not being collected under warrant, is more or less public, at least obtainable via FOIA requests. It's already been demonstrated that this data can be used to trace someone's address (and other critical addresses, like work or favorite stores) quickly. So it's not just a matter of government collecting "public" data... it's making it available to anyone, some of whom may not have your best interests at heart.
Now, imagine you have a violent ex who might well kill you if they could find you. I know multiple people in that situation. And government surveillance data, publicly available with a little effort, could find you. Is that okay?
Don't mistake your privilege for society's needs.
The Supreme Court decision you speak of also makes very clear in its ruling that there is, legally speaking, no such thing as a "general right to privacy". It simply doesn't exist in U.S. jurisprudence. There can be a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in many situations, but that's not quite the same thing.
Of course, courts can rule things unconstitutional and break with prior precedent anyways. But until they do police aerial surveillance is not only "not illegal", but it's been to the Supreme Court already and upheld.
> New technology that makes it possible to observe "public" behavior in ways that were previously impossible is still subject to the right to privacy, and courts may well rule it intrusive and unconstitutional.
Airplanes are simply not "new" technology. Nor are helicopters. Nor are cameras, or radio control. I watched helicopter footage of O.J. fleeing in a white Bronco as a child. None of this is "new".
Lastly, you'll notice that the most recent developments in GPS tracking state that warrants are required to use GPS trackers even when police have reasonable suspicion.  Since the ostensible reasons for using these drones are to track the movements of individuals, and Stingray devices essentially have that as their sole feature, do you really think it's justified to (quite possibly illegally) track all of these "innocent until proven guilty" citizens using aerial drones? We aren't just talking about a few people who stole a car or are fleeing the scene of a murder. This is wholesale tracking of everyone on the streets -- and possibly in their homes if cell signals are being monitored -- in a 10 mile radius of Inner Harbor.
Protesters, or at least key organizers, need to be running apps to detect and block IMSI catchers. And everyone not using them needs to put their phones in Faraday bags.
I don't use smartphones, and so don't know what works best. Searching on "detect IMSI catcher" yields hits for Android, but I see no apps for iOS. AIMSICD looks like a good app. Maybe someone who knows this stuff well can recommend one.
It's easy to make Faraday bags from aluminum foil. To test, you just put the phone in the bag, and call it. If it rings, there are leaks. It's important to turn the phone off before putting it in the Faraday bag. That will prevent rapid battery discharge through high-power attempts to reach towers.
The hardest aspect is getting good electrical contact on all seams, including the access flap. The maximum dimension of any hole in the bag must be small, less than 1-2 cm. A gap at the seam that's 1-2 cm long, even if it's very narrow, will leak (re-radiate) a lot.
The other thing to keep in mind is that aluminum foil gets brittle with bending, and will crack. So you need multiple layers, and the layers must be in electrical contact. Narrow strips of double-stick tape between layers are OK to provide structural stability. But it's a trade-off.
My phone at your service 
[Note to self: don't be lit from below when being interviewed on camera, see at min 1:08.]
You deploy a system like this on an aircraft with long loiter times and you have a visual history of the movement of as many individuals or vehicles that it can keep track of. You pair this with a stingray on the ground or air, and you can put names and electronic communications to the people being tracked from above.
You can have a history of where a person has been, who they've been talking to, what they've been saying if it's electronic, and you can get a great picture of what they've been doing at each location, without a warrant, with no way of opting out. This is an Orwellian dragnet. This is a police state.
The NSA-style rebuttal to this is that they're only capturing metadata. This technology suite gives "only" where you've been, who you've talked to, and when you've done those things. Of course it's fascist nonsense, knowing that I was at a bakery at 9 AM leaves very little to the imagination.
I think the best we can do is to get transparency and at best to subject the authorities to the same level of surveillance.
Our only hope is to fix the government so people are not put away for acts that shouldn't be crimes. Let the brunt of this technology fall solely on violent criminals and thieves.
It's unfortunate that while protesters are a good portion locals, most inciters of the rioting are people who don't have to live with the residue of destruction.
They were completely white with a black box on the bottom. I assumed that they had a similar function to rc-135s with some sort of side radar that can track all vehicles in real time.
Ah, well, here's an answer to one question:
The blimps in 2005 looked a bit different - they didn't have such a large obvious radar hump. Also, I'm pretty sure the blimps I saw were not tethered, but hard to say definitively.
I still haven't found any info on filing flight plans though.
Do you mean that they first started testing them in DC ca ~2005? Because they have been around for decades. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tethered_Aerostat_Radar_System
>>The first aerostats were assigned to the United States Air Force in December 1980 at Cudjoe Key, Fla. During the 1980s, the U.S. Customs Service operated a network of aerostats to help counter illegal drug trafficking. Their first site was built at High Rock, Grand Bahamas Island, in 1984. The second site was built at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., in 1986. Before 1992, three agencies operated the TARS network: the Air Force, U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Coast Guard. Congress in 1992 transferred management of the system to the Defense Department, with the Air Force as executive agent. Under Air Force management, through contract consolidation and system standardization, the operations and maintenance cost per site was reduced from $6 million in fiscal year 1992 to $3.5 million in 2007. However the Budget Control Act of 2011 slashed funding for the Air Force, which tried to shut down the project. However, the Department of Homeland Security picked up the project and its funding for fiscal year 2014.
edit: PS, the Aerostat/Blimps have been listed on aviation sectionals as well, so no, they don't file flight plans.
But your grand-parents'. Nowadays they would use drones.
This article is a little out there and belongs on some conspiracy website. Reads like an Infowars piece.
This alone disqualifies him:
> "super-high, gigapixel resolution cameras on planes, which are then used to monitor entire cities"
> "Every moving pedestrian and vehicle can be tracked: the beginning and end everyone’s journeys, and the route taken in between"
> "This gives the authorities the power to press "rewind" on anybody's movements"
Sorry, but he's watched too many bad TV shows and movies. Can you imagine the storage needed to record gigapixel level video that would allow you to do this? The real explanation is in the middle of the story, but it's so benign that it hardly merits any discussion:
> "the flights were apparently carried out by the FBI at the request of local law enforcement, and that they were using infrared cameras of some kind "to monitor movements of people in the vicinity.""
So, you had a large amount of people out at night, spread out in a city, with some acting violently. Not using this type of technology to get a handle on the situation would be negligent. It's not some super secret mass surveillance tech, it's fairly basic cameras that can be used to help police, fire, and medical services respond as necessary. But the ACLU can't fund raise and get clicks off that, so this guy wrapped it in nonsense and now its getting lots of clicks.
It's not just a question of resolution. It's a question of software and big data, which is very different. And it's a question the ACLU would be very interested in.
Don't throw out the critical concerns of privacy just because you can nitpick a few holes in the writer's technical understanding. It's bad form, and deliberately misses a valid point. A credible source focused on privacy is concerned enough to write about it. Dismissing it out of hand because the author isn't as much of a nerd as you is not a good argument.
"DARPA’s frightening ARGUS-IS, a record-setting 1.8 gigapixel sensor array which can observe and record an area half the size of Manhattan. The newest in the family of "wide area persistent surveillance" tools, the system can detect and track moving objects as small as six inches from 20,000 feet in the air."