You are being watched. The unsettling “Big Brother” reality imagined by George Orwell now exists in its infancy.

Government intrusions into our privacy have become a common occurrence. Edward Snowden’s dramatic NSA reveal birthed a nation of cynics. We now know that the government is tracking us, and we’re wary.

A congressional report has just revealed that Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have spent an astonishing $95 million on secret cell phone tracking technology. The departments own more than 400 advanced cell-site simulators.

 

Cell-site simulators are sophisticated devices that mimic legitimate cell phone towers to trick nearby phones into connecting. Identifying information can then be gleaned by officials. They’re often employed by police officers trawling for suspects.

Sensitive data is not protected. Innocent passerby who come near the simulator will be as vulnerable as criminals.

Technological advances have been so rapid that the law has struggled to keep up. Old privacy laws are no longer sufficient in a society where much of James Bond’s spy equipment no longer seems like science fiction.

 

“Congress should establish a legal framework that governs government agencies, commercial entities, and private citizens’ access to and use of geolocation data, including geolocation data obtained by the use of a cell-site simulator,” reads a report written by Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, and Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat.

Current law lacks the nuance necessary for such devices. Attempts have been made by the DOJ and Homeland Security to to adopt policies restricting the agencies freedom to track citizens, but the sloppy rules weren’t universally adopted and are chock-full of loopholes.

The FBI unsurprisingly has the most cell-site simulators of any American agency. It’s reported that they have 195 devices, each referred to by brand names like Stingray or Hailstorm.

“The U.S. Marshals Service has 70; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has 59; U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration each has 33; U.S. Secret Service has 32; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has 13; the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations division has two; and the Treasury inspector general has one,” reports the Washington Times.

 

The government has been amassing powerful spying technology for decades. The American public is almost entirely in the dark. How we can defend our rights if we not aware that they’re being violated?

Obama’s administration is composed of typical, lying politicians who’ve kept their real intentions hidden from voters.

President-elect Donald Trump impressed the world with his honesty and earnestness. Here finally is a politician that refrains from “double-speak.” A politician that can actually be trusted.

There’s a delicate balance to be struck between the equally pressing needs of freedom and security. Freedom loses half it’s value if you’re not safe to enjoy it, and there’s no real security to be found for slaves.

We want to be able to fly in peace, but we don’t want to endure intrusive pat-downs by the TSA. We want to keep our messages private, but we expect the FBI to monitor the conversations of potential terrorists.

The only way to balance the two disparate needs is through the government. Trump must forge a plan and stick to it. What are the rules for tracking American citizens? How private should information on cell phones be?

The internet has grown fangs. Hackers and spies lurk on every page. They’re so well hidden that the government can watch you for years or a dedicated hacker can steal every one of your passwords without you being the wiser.

“Nondisclosure agreements should be replaced with agreements that require clarity and candor to the court whenever a cell-site simulator has been used by law enforcement in a criminal investigation,” a report states.

Nondisclosure agreements have hindered criminal investigations so prosecutors have been forced to refrain from bringing criminal charges rather than disclose local police use of cell-site simulators.

The badly written law has freed dozens of guilty criminals.

 

It’s unclear how many local law enforcement agencies have received the simulators, but Homeland Security officials indicated that over $1.8 million in grant money intended to purchase the devices has been awarded by the agency to state and local law enforcement.

What Americans crave from their next president is transparency. Voters are disappointed with Obama because he proved to be all talk. His words are meaningless. His protege Hillary Clinton was even worse. Americans grew sick on her lies and rejected her at the voter booth.

Trump’s future cabinet is populated with plain-spoken Washington outsiders. Lies and deceit have yet to mar Trump’s image. He’s almost being blamed for being too honest and upfront rather than otherwise.

Personal information shouldn’t be freely up for grabs to anyone with a badge. Private citizens don’t deserve to be treated like criminals. We must completely revise current privacy laws, and ensure that law enforcement officials aren’t granted unrestricted access to private data.

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