Invoices obtained through a request under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the Internal Revenue Service made purchases in 2009 and 1012 with the Harris Corporation, manufacturer of the notorious Stingray cellphone listening devices. You can see these documents over at The Guardian.
Stingray and similar devices snoop on cellphone conversations and text messages by providing a fake cellphone tower for your device to automatically connect into. Most of our cellphones and other devices search for available towers and automatically connect to them based on the one with the best signal strength. If anyone with a stingray device parks it in your neighborhood your device will likely automatically connect through it. When you connect through a fake tower all the supposed encryption and security goes out the window. This is known in the hacker world as a MITM or man in the middle attack.
Recently the Internal Revenue Service responded to the discovery of their cell snooping activities by saying that they only use their cellphone spying devices when they have court orders to do so. You can safely assume that this statement is likely a steaming pile. It has been the trend of law enforcement and government agencies that use sketchy forms of snooping to try their hardest to conceal the fact that they even use them. This means dropping charges against individuals to conceal the means of evidence gathering if victims refuse to plea out and want to take it that far. This prevents the means the evidence was obtained from coming out in court. Consider that 95% of IRS cases end in plea deals without any court testimony taking place.The idea here is for law enforcement to obtain evidence illegally, then using what they know already they go and acquire documents or whatever they can to show what they already know is going on. This makes things a lot easier for them.
This sort of spying is nothing new. With the recent Snowden revelations it becomes clear you can rest assured that just about any form of communication is being eavesdropped on. Even local law enforcement agencies allover the United Sates are jumping on the bandwagon and making their own stingray purchases.