New York Court Says Police Must Get Warrant to Use Stingrays
Moving forward, New York law enforcement agencies will need to go before a judge and obtain an eavesdropping warrant if they wish to use stingrays to track suspects' cellphones. Stingrays spoof cell towers and fool cell phones into connecting with them. Police use them in cars or airplanes scanning entire neighborhoods seeking the phone of a single suspect. The issue is that the stingrays are imprecise and sweep up location, call, and messaging data of every cell phone in the vicinity. "The use of a cell-site simulator intrudes upon an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, acting as an instrument of eavesdropping, and requires a separate warrant supported by probable cause," wrote the Brooklyn judge overseeing the case. The ruling mirrors one made in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. Privacy advocates around the country are pushing back against the use of stingrays. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NYPD used stingrays more than 1,000 times between 2008 and 2015, though generally only for the most serious offenses. The Brooklyn ruling will set the tone for cases involving the use of stingrays tried in New York.
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.
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.
Dec 20, 2016
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.
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.
Apr 3, 2018
The Department of Homeland Security today said it has encountered cell site simulators being used in Washington, D.C., in what appears to be an effort to spy on Americans. The agency acknowledged the use of Stingrays, though it didn't say what type of devices they were, who was using them, how many were detected, nor where the devices were being put to use.