March 16, 2015 2:00 pm -

Stingray2-640x353[su_r_sky_ad]Why is the public being kept in the dark about a disturbing surveillance device being sold only to law enforcement agencies?

A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology.

Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns.

The confidentiality has elevated the stakes in a longstanding debate about the public disclosure of government practices versus law enforcement’s desire to keep its methods confidential. While companies routinely require nondisclosure agreements for technical products, legal experts say these agreements raise questions and are unusual given the privacy and even constitutional issues at stake. …

The technology goes by various names, including StingRay, KingFish or, generically, cell site simulator. It is a rectangular device, small enough to fit into a suitcase, that intercepts a cellphone signal by acting like a cellphone tower.

The technology can also capture texts, calls, emails and other data, and prosecutors have received court approval to use it for such purposes.

Cell site simulators are catching on while law enforcement officials are adding other digital tools, like video cameras, license-plate readers, drones, programs that scan billions of phone records and gunshot detection sensors. Some of those tools have invited resistance from municipalities and legislators on privacy grounds.

The nondisclosure agreements for the cell site simulators are overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and typically involve the Harris Corporation, a multibillion-dollar defense contractor and a maker of the technology. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone.


D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

9 responses to Cops Can’t Discuss Hi-Tech Privacy Threat

  1. StoneyCurtisll March 16th, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Big Brother is watching..
    And listening..
    And reading all of our correspondence…
    It’s not 1984..(that is primitive compared to what they have today)
    It’s 2015.

    • Pilotshark March 16th, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      I was thinking about a month or so ago there was a store about finding secretive cell towers not belonging to any of the telecom`s.

      mmmmm as Wolfgang the Germany would say “Very Interesting”

    • rg9rts March 17th, 2015 at 8:29 am

      Then why don’t they have Hillary’s ??? LOL

      • StoneyCurtisll March 17th, 2015 at 6:31 pm

        I wouldn’t be so sure they dont…

  2. fancypants March 16th, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    the last time I saw sophistication like this was …………….

  3. Boehner-Monkey March 16th, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    There is a really good group out there called The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which helps fight for transparency on these sort of issues.

  4. trees March 16th, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    I have a very big concern. Identity theft. Think about it, this thing captures electronic information being transmitted by a cell phone…….

  5. rg9rts March 17th, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Warrantless search

  6. illinoisboy1977 March 18th, 2015 at 11:04 am

    This is where the cell phone companies should encrypt their phones, and instruct them to only share data with home network towers and lock down all information when roaming. Then, if a phone hits a non-home tower, including one of these boxes, it only shares subscriber information and not the contents of the device or call/data history. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile could easily do this, today.