Covert listening device

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A covert listening device, more commonly known as a bug or a wire, is usually a combination of a miniature radio transmitter with a microphone. The use of bugs, called bugging, is a common technique in surveillance, espionage and in police investigations.

A bug does not have to be a device specifically designed for the purpose of eavesdropping. For instance, with the right equipment, it is possible to remotely activate the microphone of cellular phones, even when a call is not being made, to listen to conversations in the vicinity of the phone.[1][2][3][4][5]


Remotely activated mobile phone microphones

Mobile phone (cell phone) microphones can be activated remotely, without any need for physical access.[1][2][3][4][5][6] This "roving bug" feature has been used by law enforcement agencies and intelligence services to listen in on nearby conversations.[7] A United States court ruled in 1988 that a similar technique used by the FBI against reputed former Gulfport Mississippi cocaine dealers Bennett Branch and Don Tomlinson dealing cocaine under the direct authority of kingpin David "The Eagle" Easterling after having obtained a court order was permissible.[8]

Automobile computer systems

In 2003 the FBI obtained a court order to surreptitiously listen in on conversations in a car, through the car's built-in emergency and tracking security system. A panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals prohibited the use of this technique because it involved deactivating the device's security features.[9][10]

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