iFixit, Wired.com undress FBI GPS tracking technology
Back in 2005, an environmental activist discovered a tracking device placed on her car by the FBI. Wired.com and gadget teardown experts iFixit recently acquired and deconstructed the device, giving us a look at a highly sophisticated and secretive (though, by 2011 standards, severely outdated) piece of technology.
The device consists of four main components: a battery pack, GPS antenna, transmission/reception module and magnets to mount it to the car’s frame. The battery pack is a long metal tube (which could easily be mistaken for a pipe bomb) that holds four lithium-thionyl chloride (Li-SOCI2) D cell batteries. The battery pack is designed for applications that draw low power for extended periods of time (10-20 years!).
While certainly cutting edge in 2005, (the now-ubiquitous GPS on mobile phones was then unheard of), six years later the tech seems almost ancient. It tells us less about what the FBI is currently capable of and more about their warrantless surveillance tactics.
A former federal agent told Wired.com that devices currently in use by the FBI most likely don’t require separate batteries, and can be hard-wired directly to the car battery and hidden under the hood.
This public undressing of FBI technology comes in the wake of last year’s discovery of an FBI tracking unit by a California student named Yasir Afifi. Afifi recently made headlines yet again when the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit against the FBI on his behalf, claiming they violated the American-born U.S. citizen’s rights when they tracked him without a warrant.