Who is Listening? (Part 2)

April 13, 2015

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Law enforcement officials have begun to widely use a secret surveillance tool known as “Stingray,” which is manufactured by Harris Corp. See http://www.washingtonpost.com (“Secrecy around police surveillance equipment proves a case’s undoing” Ellen Nakashema, February 22, 2015). When it is activated, the device simulates a cell phone tower and compels a phone to register with it. The phone is not required to be in use for the machine to work, and the machine pulls information from the phone including telephone and serial numbers, calls, and texts. Id.

It is not entirely known exactly how many law enforcement agencies, local, state, or federal, are using the Stingray technology. See http://www.thenewamerican.com (“Police Use Stingray Device to Monitor Cell Phones,” Warren Mass, March 24, 2014). However, it is available and it appears that it is being used. Like other technologies used by law enforcement, there is little doubt that information gathered through the Stingray system could potentially be useful for prosecutors as a well for defendants and their counsel seeking to challenge the State’s allegations of criminal conduct. Seee.g.U.S. v. Allums, 2009 WL 806748, at 1 (noting that the methodology used by law enforcement was reliable where agent drove around cell towers using a cell phone from defendant’s provider and device called a “Stingray” to determine the approximate range of coverage for each tower). And there is little doubt that litigation will continue as this technology permeates the criminal justice system, and effects the rights of those accused in criminal matters.

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