Electronic surveillance in the digital age is essentially a cat-and-mouse game between governmental agencies that are developing new techniques and technologies for surveillance, juxtaposed against privacy rights advocates who voice concerns about such technologies. In November 2014, there was a discovery of a new twist on a relatively old theme. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Marshals Service was running a surveillance program employing devices—dirtboxes—that gather all cell phone numbers in the surrounding area. Other federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, Immigration and Custom Enforcement, and the Department of Homeland Security, are also documented to have used dirtboxes. These dirtboxes are manufactured by Digital Receiver Technology (DRT), a subsidiary of Boeing. Dirtboxes get their name based on the acronym of the three letters. The U.S. Marshals Service uses these dirtboxes to gather information on the locations or the cell phone numbers of criminal suspects and fugitives.
Brian L. Owsley,
Spies in the Skies: Dirtboxes and Airplane Electronic Surveillance,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol113/iss1/1