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The program could violate the Fourth Amendment, some privacy groups say

Civil rights groups are raising serious constitutional questions about the Justice Department’s use of dragnet technology onboard aircraft to collect data from suspects’ cell phones, as reported by the Wall Street Journal Thursday.

The program, run by the U.S. Marshals Service, uses small aircraft equipped with high-tech devices that mimic cell towers, tricking suspects’ cell phones into connecting with them instead of legitimate towers. The devices, called dirtboxes, can then grab certain data from the tricked phones, most notably their location. The aircraft involved operate from five U.S. metropolitan areas and have together a flying range covering most of the country’s population, the Journal reported.

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