When you use your cellphone, you probably expect the information on it to stay private. You certainly don’t think that others will be able to access your private messages, account information and location unless you let them. However, law enforcement agencies sometimes use devices called Stingrays to gain access to cellphones. Is this legal?
What are Stingrays?
Stingrays are devices about the size of a suitcase that act as cellphone towers. Law enforcement agencies use these devices to trick phones in the area into connecting to them. By doing so, Stingrays are able to gain access to information on the cellphones.
For instance, cellphones store text messages, emails and location data of the user. All of this information is available to Stingrays in real time. These devices are powerful enough to connect to phones through walls and document this information, and interfere with or record phone calls. Police can use a Stingray to search for criminal suspects, shut down a phone before evidence can be deleted, and attempt to locate missing persons.
Stingrays have been a valuable tool for police during investigations. In 2012, the FBI used a Stingray device to catch a suspect in a mail and wire fraud investigation. However, there have been some questions raised recently about letting police use these devices without first obtaining a search warrant.
New Policies Regulating the Use of Stingrays by Law Enforcement
The use of Stingrays by law enforcement has been a controversial topic. Agencies were previously allowed to use these devices without issue. However, a recent policy change by the Department of Justice requires law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before they can use a Stingray device.
Under this new policy, law enforcement agencies must regularly delete data collected through Stingray, bit data that could prove a suspect’s innocence must be maintained. Continue reading →