The coverage of desktop mobile phone jammers is very large

At around 1 am on Monday, a strange tweet claimed that Washington, DC had been disconnected from the digital world. The Washington Post later reported that the Twitter accounts of only three followers were the first to report a suspected interruption. When people wake up and register online, #DCblackout is all the rage in the United States. The hashtag appeared in thousands of tweets, accompanied by reports of explosions, missing protesters and silencers of police rifles. What followed was a brief online chaos: Did the police really block the cell phone tower? What should the so-called failure cover? The local reporter quickly tweeted that they had not experienced any failures. Later that day, the rumors were thoroughly debunked. It turns out that a power failure is the highest level of error message. This also dispersed the interference of local protests. The local police used violent methods to deal with the protesters all night, including pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas.

However, the premise of the power outage is that the police (or the federal government) can completely shut down the communication network-this behavior seriously affects the freedom of speech and assembly rights, as well as the safety of demonstrators and passers-by. Although it did not happen on Monday, the joke raised the question of whether it is possible for law enforcement agencies to cause technical and legal power outages, and whether it is possible.

Americans tend to view deliberate service interruption as a dangerous strategy used by oppressive regimes abroad. In a speech by the American Civil Liberties Union, Jay Stanley, a senior political analyst for the Privacy and Technology Project, told me that communication interruptions are often seen as “a terrible form of abuse” and are used worldwide to cover up repression of sexual violence and other violations. Human rights behavior. “

But this form of censorship has occurred at least once in the United States. In 2011, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) suspended cell phone service at subway stations in downtown San Francisco after hearing protests against the BART police’s plan to shoot and kill a man. BART’s goal is to prevent the protesters from coordinating, but it is short-sighted, thus making the agency the center of the nation’s free speech disputes. The Federal Communications Commission intervened, and BART’s actions were condemned by human rights organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (the incident was called the “BART La Mubarak in San Francisco” incident). The FCC investigated BART, but like Harold Feld, the senior vice president of non-profit public knowledge told me that the committee decided not to make a declarative decision on the incident. This boils down to a technical problem: BART actually shuts down the service by shutting down the equipment in the underground system instead of destroying the signal.

No similar incidents have been confirmed since, but during the Liyan protests in 2016, Wired reported that tribal leaders believed that the police had blocked their phones. The problem with proving these claims is that it is difficult to judge whether malicious behavior is occurring or whether the signal is bad. Only agencies like the FCC have not yet investigated the claims to be able to truly verify whether traffic jams have occurred.

The BART controversy and, to a lesser extent, the Standing Rock (Standing Rock) both show how complicated the shutdown signal can be in the United States-and how we truly fail to understand and resolve current and future law enforcement blackout blueprints. What we do know is that it is still possible from a technical point of view almost ten years later. According to Joshua M. Pearce, a professor of materials science and engineering at the Michigan Institute of Technology, there are two ways to cause ground blackouts. (Turning off BART is an unusual situation because the authorities can access the device themselves.) The first is to ask (or require) the service provider to shut down a specific set of cell phone towers. It’s as simple as flipping a switch

The second method (and the more difficult method) is to use cell phone jammer technology, which sometimes sends false signals, overwhelming the signal from the cell phone tower. Small short-range equipment can be purchased abroad (for example, equipment used by certain overseas universities can prevent fraud and lead to the suspension of a high school teacher in Florida in 2015). In theory, you can use a large number of small devices like this to call neighbors, but this is not convenient. Pearce believes that cell phone jammers have a large coverage area, but only organizations like the National Security Agency own them.

The question of whether police blackouts are legal is much more complicated. The general rule is that under Article 333 of the Communications Act of 1934 or the law that forms the basis of FCC policy, it is a violation of federal law to interfere with wireless signals. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued public guidelines stating that this applies to state and local laws as well as Wi-Fi and cellular signals. In short, any interference is illegal. However, Feld pointed out that local authorities can find solutions that will not interfere-as they did with BART. In theory, without FCC, service providers should not suspend services. However, the Communications Law contains exceptions for emergency situations.

However, the greater danger may come from the federal government. Feld said that the FCC does not regulate the use and abuse of signals by the federal government, so President Trump can order the US military and other federal forces to interrupt the signal or force the company to shut down. He pointed out that after September 11, the Department of Homeland Security worked with service providers to develop an agreement under which cell phone companies shut down their networks at the request of federal agencies. In addition, if Trump declares war, threat of war, “public danger” or “national emergency”, he will have the right to

Field said: “If Trump invokes the Civil Uprising Act and invokes his powers under [Article 706], then he may order the telephone company to cease service at the request of a federal agency.”

The presidential power granted by Section 706 is so great that FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel requested a reassessment earlier this year. Congress should consider whether this power is constitutional in the digital age and how other branches of government can mitigate this power. Rosenworthel also said that the United States should eventually formulate a government-led shutdown policy. She said: “Our existing laws may be distorted to help power outages, and we should expect government-directed shutdowns to occur in more places, including at home.”

It may be obvious that, in addition to being legal, the power outage will harm the public, not just because it clearly violates the First Amendment. Stanley said: “This is a wrong response to political protests, whether it is around the world or in the United States.” Service interruptions will affect people’s ability to call 911 and check in with their loved ones in an emergency, and it may undermine Healthcare and other businesses. Stanley said: “By cutting off the entire communication channel, you are not only suppressing the protests, but also causing widespread collateral damage.”

Whether the power outage is obvious or not depends on who you are talking to. Stanley hesitated, although he thought there were good reasons to believe that the United States would not go that far. He said: “I think the BART incident is regarded as a mistake by everyone.” But Feld is more worried, even though he admits that blackouts are not so effective for the police or the federal government: they may disrupt the coordination of protests and affect the live broadcast. , But it cannot prevent individuals from recording videos and recording their circumstances. Nevertheless, he is still worried about the current environment. “The problem is that in this world, some police departments seem to be willing to use tear gas…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *