from the trust-no-one dept.
The ACLU has released documents obtained from Florida public records requests to law enforcement agencies that give a more complete account of the use of Stingray surveillance technology. "Stingrays, also known as 'cell site simulators,' or 'IMSI catchers,' are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and force phones in the area to broadcast information that can be used to identify and locate them." The Register reports:
Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union have shown that US cops are using the FBI's Stingray mobile phone tracking tech much more often than first thought. And the Feds are going to great lengths to hide the full extent of its use.
"The documents paint a detailed picture of police using an invasive technology - one that can follow you inside your house - in many hundreds of cases and almost entirely in secret," said Nathan Freed Wessler, staff attorney at the ACLU. "The secrecy is not just from the public, but often from judges who are supposed to ensure that police are not abusing their authority. Partly relying on that secrecy, police have been getting authorization to use Stingrays based on the low standard of 'relevance,' not a warrant based on probable cause as required by the Fourth Amendment."
The ACLU requested information about Stingray use from three dozen Florida police departments and found out that the system has been in use in the Sunshine State since 2007 - much earlier than first thought. According to a May 2014 email, the Stingray system has been used in 1,835 cases in Florida, none of which were national-security related. More than a third of cases using the technology involved robbery, burglary, and theft, and the rest were largely "wanted persons" cases.
The documents also included details of a few specific cases where Stingrays have been used. In one, defense lawyers were able to use the FBI's reluctance to reveal details about the technology to get a sweetheart deal of a sentence for their clients.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is acknowledging for the first time that foreign actors or criminals are using eavesdropping devices to track cellphone activity in Washington, D.C., according to a letter obtained by The Hill.
DHS in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) last Monday said they came across unauthorized cell-site simulators in the Washington, D.C., area last year. Such devices, also known as "stingrays," can track a user's location data through their mobile phones and can intercept cellphone calls and messages.
[...] DHS official Christopher Krebs, the top official leading the NPPD, added in a separate letter accompanying his response that such use "of IMSI catchers by malicious actors to track and monitor cellular users is unlawful and threatens the security of communications, resulting in safety, economic and privacy risks."
DHS said they have not determined the users behind such eavesdropping devices, nor the type of devices being used. The agency also did not elaborate on how many devices it unearthed, nor where authorities located them.
Related: Police: Stingray Device Intercepts Mobile Phones
ACLU Reveals Greater Extent of FBI and Law Enforcement "Stingray" Use
US IRS Bought Stingray, Stingray II, and Hailstorm IMSI-Catchers
EFF Launches the Cell-Site Simulator Section of Street Level Surveillance
NYPD Making Heavy Use of Stingrays
New York Lawmakers Want Local Cops to Get Warrant Before Using Stingray
New Jersey State Police Spent $850,000 on Harris Corp. Stingray Devices