Justice Department to Reveal More About Dirtboxes
Government officials at the U.S. Department of Justice have agreed provide more information about how law enforcement uses dirtboxes to collect location data on cell phones. The government uses dirtboxes in two specific ways. First, it sweeps large areas for the phones of suspected criminals from an airplane. Though the government is typically targeting a single phone, it sweeps up the data of all phone users in range of the plane — typically tens of thousands of people. Once law enforcement has a general idea of where the suspect or suspects are located, ground-based law enforcement move in and use a similar hand-held dirtbox to home in on the suspect's exact location. Until lately, law enforcement did all this without warrants. The Wall Street Journal exposed the practice last year, raising serious questions about the method's "silent ID check" of innocent people. As such, the Justice Department said it will review how the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marshals Service use the devices moving forward. The Justice Department is "examining its policies to ensure they reflect the Department's continuing commitment to conducting its vital missions while according appropriate respect for privacy and civil liberties." The Justice Department's review will pertain to the federal agencies that use dirtboxes, but not necessarily how local law enforcement offices use them. Dirtboxes are increasingly used by local law enforcement to circumvent the need to ask phone companies to provide the same information. Asking phone companies to provide such data generally requires a warrant.
Feds to Require Warrants for Cellphone Trackers
The Justice Department has issued new policy concerning the use of Stingrays to collect cellphone data and will require warrants moving forward. Stingrays, also called dirtboxes, mimic cell towers and can record the data of every cell phone they encounter.
Judge Says Law Enforcement Needs Warrant to Use Stingrays
A federal judge has tossed evidence discovered by Drug Enforcement Administration officers after they used a Stingray to locate a suspect without a warrant. The case involves a drug trafficking ring in New York City.
House Panel Says Stingrays Need Federal Guidelines
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a bipartisan panel, this week recommended that the federal government pass rules to manage the use stingrays and other cell-site simulating devices. The panel said in a report that law enforcement agencies have varying and inconsistent rules for the use of such devices.
Supreme Court to Weigh Accessibility of Cell Location Data
The Supreme Court today said it will hear a case regarding whether or not law enforcement can access certain types of cell location data without a warrant. As it stands today, the government does not need to get a warrant when seeking location and other information held by phone companies.
Warrant Required for Stingray Use in Washington
Washington Governor Jay Inslee today signed a bill mandating that law enforcement obtain a warrant before using stingray devices within the state's borders. The law, which goes into effect immediately, is one of the strongest in the country as it requires police to describe how the stingray will be used to collect data.