Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bipartisan bill seeks warrants for police use of 'stingray' cell trackers

A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday requiring police agencies to get a search warrant before they can deploy powerful cellphone surveillance technology known as "stingrays" that sweep up information about the movements of innocent Americans while tracking suspected criminals.

“Owning a smartphone or fitness tracker shouldn’t give the government a blank check to track your movements," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who introduced the bill with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and John Conyers, D-Mich. "Law enforcement should be able to use GPS data, but they need to get a warrant. This bill sets out clear rules to make sure our laws keep up with the times."

Stingrays are suitcase-sized devices that can pinpoint a cellphone’s location within a few yards by essentially masquerading as a cell tower. While they can help police track suspected criminals, the devices also intercept information from the cellphones of innocent people who just happen to be nearby. Dozens of police departments throughout the U.S. use the devices, often concealing that fact from suspects and their lawyers during court proceedings.

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