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.
Judge Says Law Enforcement Needs Warrant to Use Stingrays
Jul 13, 2016
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.
Supreme Court Weighing Warrants for Cell Phone Location
Nov 29, 2017
The Supreme Court today heard a case regarding whether or not law enforcement can access certain types of cell location data without a warrant. Government agencies do not currently need a warrant when requesting location and other data held by phone companies thanks to a 1979 court case.
Feds to Require Warrants for Cellphone Trackers
Sep 4, 2015
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.
Supreme Court to Weigh Accessibility of Cell Location Data
Jun 5, 2017
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.
Senators Want FCC to Investigate, Regulate Stingrays
Oct 6, 2016
A number of senators have asked the FCC to look into law enforcement's use of stingrays to see if the tool puts the public at risk, and also to see if stingrays unfairly target minority groups. Stingrays masquerade as cell towers in order to collect location and other data from phones in a given area.