Secrecy: New Justice Department policy requires warrants for use of Stingray technology

The Justice Department has adopted a new policy on the use of cell phone towers to track the number of cell phones and their locations. The policy requires federal law enforcement agencies to obtain search warrants supported by probably cause to use the towers. The EFF has long contended that without checks provided by warrants, agencies could record the content of calls and texts and deny service to phones. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, September 3, 2015, by Nate Cardozo)

The new policy restricting the use of Stingray technology applies to the FBI, DEA and other federal agencies but does not cover Homeland Security or state and local police. The ACLU contends that the FBI has conspired with Stingray manufacturers to keep the use of the technology a secret from the public and courts by claiming falsely it was necessary to national security. (Consumer Affairs, August 8, 2015, by Jennifer Abel)

“The policy makes clear that cell-site simulators may not be used to collect the contents of any communication in the course of criminal investigations. This means data contained on the phone itself, such as emails, texts, contact lists and images, may not be collected using this technology,” the Justice Department said in announcing the policy. (Slate, September 4, 2015, by Lily Hay Newman)