New York’s Erie County police department has revealed that it used Stingray spying tool for tracking users’ cellphone for 47 times without a warrant.
The Erie County police department in New York has made it difficult for the New York Civil Liberties Union to provide records regarding the “Stingray”, a surveillance tool they use which has been deemed as controversial.
And rightfully so, as the records apparently show that their local cops have sought and secured only one court order in October 2014 to utilize this yet have actually used the device 47 times between May 1, 2010 and October 3, 2014.
This evidently opposes their county sheriff’s initial statement a year ago that their department has only used this under “judicial review.”
It was found that their department even had to mischaracterized the actual nature of the tool to request for a court order instead of a warrant. Another case discovered by the NYCLU was the signed stringent gag order with the FBI affirming that the confidentiality of the stingray records shall be kept and thus refrain from disclosing details regarding information gathering through this tool in courts. In fact, they were even told by the FBI that the latter has the capability to intervene in such cases where the use of stingrays would be necessitated to be divulged.
Elsewhere, other police departments have struck a similar agreement with one of the leading makers of stingray, Harris Corporation. It can be recalled that the same happened in Florida, where the U.S. Marshals service took hold of the local police’s records to ensure that the American Civil Liberties Union would not get a hold of them. Furthermore, a number of law enforcement agencies have been found to use the same and ergo, deceive the judiciary in order to keep the public and the defendants from acquiring knowledge regarding the use of the said surveillance tool.
In a statement, NYCLU Western Region Director John Curr II said that:
“Stingrays are an advanced surveillance technology that can sweep up very private information, including information on innocent people. If the FBI can command the Sheriff’s Office to dismiss criminal cases to protect its secret stingrays, it is not clear how the $350,000 we are spending on stingray equipment is keeping the people of Buffalo safer.”
It is important to note that the stingray works in such a way that mobile phone owners are hoaxed into exposing their location through a trick played on cellular networks. This surveillance tool then releases a stronger signal than that of cell towers to give no other option for the mobile phones or gadgets to connect with them and thereby divulge their unique ID. Of course, this means that owners’ locations can now be more than easily traced.
This blow-by-blow news trended in a number of states in the United States immersed in similar situations where what is clear is that departments shall continue to withhold the information regarding stingrays and its apparent utilization in the law enforcement.