A group of Democratic senators asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate cell site simulators like Stingrays to determine if the surveillance devices used by local law enforcement agencies are disrupting cellphone service for ordinary consumers and 911 calls. The senators are also asking the FCC to look into whether Stingray use disproportionately affects people of color.
Cell site simulators, commonly known as IMSI catchers or by the brand name Stingray, pose as normal cellphone towers. When nearby phones connect, the simulators can capture their unique ID numbers, track their locations and intercept the contents of calls and messages. Law enforcement agencies tend to be secretive about their use of Stingrays, but several civil rights groups, including Center for Media Justice, ColorOfChange.org and New America’s Open Technology Institute, claimed in August that the Baltimore Police Department’s use of the devices was inhibiting emergency calls and unfairly targeting communities of color.