The DOJ is blocking requests for information on Stingray, which can spy on you by connecting with your cell phone
For the past several years, we’ve been learning more and more about police use of “cell site simulators” across the country, and it’s a disturbing trend. These devices, regularly referred to by the brand name Stingray, are about the size of a briefcase and mimic cell phone towers so phones nearby will try to access them. Once a signal reaches the Stingray, the machine can gather information about the phone. That means a strategically placed Stingray can access hundreds of phones in an area and figure out who the phones belong to and where they are, all without a warrant.
Because of secrecy agreements signed by police departments nationwide and the government’s general lack of transparency when it comes to surveillance, it’s been difficult for Americans to learn who’s using these devices, how they’re using them and why. Organizations like the ACLU have filed numerous lawsuits to learn more about Stingrays, and has gradually gained quite a bit of knowledge, but roadblocks are constantly being put in the way.
For example, the ACLU recently filed a lawsuit against the Delaware State Police after they refused to give up information on their use of Stingrays in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Furthermore, the Department of Justice stepped in and backed up the decision made by Delaware police.
“Although the United States is not a party to this case, it has a direct interest in the protection of the information withheld,” DOJ attorneys wrote. “Cell-site simulator technology is a key tool in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation, interdiction and suppression of criminal and terrorist activity. Disclosure of even minor details about this technology will jeopardize, if not vitiate, the ability of the FBI and the larger law enforcement community to successfully deploy this valuable technology.”