Citizen App Says It Will Get Access to Encrypted Police Comms

An internal Citizen document says that the Baltimore Police Department will still give Citizen access once the city encrypts its communications.

Jun 30 2021, 12:30pm
Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard's podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.

Citizen, the crime reporting and neighborhood watch app, says it will be granted access to the encrypted communications of at least one police department once it switches over to encrypting its radio traffic, according to an internal Citizen document obtained by Motherboard.

The news shows that beyond passively ingesting police radio traffic to then push alerts to its user base, as part of what Citizen calls "incidents," the company will also try to enter agreements with police departments to maintain that access while the wider public is cut-off.

Advertisement

The document says that Citizen got confirmation that the Baltimore Police Department would work with Citizen to keep access to the department's communications. Baltimore is planning to encrypt its radio traffic.

Do you work at Citizen? Do you have access to internal Citizen documents? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

Lindsey Eldridge, director of public affairs and community outreach at the Baltimore Police Department, told Motherboard in an email that the department will be providing equipment to established media outlets to then access the encrypted communications if the outlets sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Asked if that would include Citizen, Eldridge said that "If Citizen agrees and sign[s] off on the MOU, they would be available to receive the equipment."

A Citizen spokesperson told Motherboard in an email that "Citizen was built on the idea of opening up the decades-old 911 system to make it faster, more effective, and more transparent, and we hope to work with many more police departments who share these values."

Citizen workers listen to emergency services audio and then write short summaries to push to their user base. Recently, Citizen has outsourced some of this work to a company called CloudFactory, which has workers in Nepal and Kenya, Motherboard previously reported.

Some recent erroneous alerts include Citizen reporting a plane crash at Los Angeles International Airport—it was actually a training drill—and a false report of 30 armed men with guns in Oakland.

Police departments around the country are increasingly encrypting their police radio traffic. Eldridge added that "The new radios will increase interoperability with our local and state public safety partners, but also protect potential victims and witnesses, and ensure operational and investigative integrity."

Subscribe to our cybersecurity podcast, CYBER.

Tagged:

police, baltimore, CYBER, Vigilante, police radio

More
like this
Apple and Google Refuse to Say Whether Citizen Bounty Hunt Violated Policies
Workers At Crime-Watch App Citizen Are Unionizing
We Got the Phone the FBI Secretly Sold to Criminals
How Data Brokers Sell Access to the Backbone of the Internet
Amazon Acquires Encrypted Messaging App Wickr
CIA Funding Arm Gave Encrypted App Wickr $1.6 Million
Robinhood Hackers Accessed Internal Tool for Removing Account Security Features, Screenshots Show
FTC Orders Spyware Vendor to Stop Business