ACLU VICTORY: Judge Releases Information About Police Use of Stingray Cell Phone Trackers
The ACLU fought for this disclosure, and a judge agreed. To me that makes this a “Must Read” document.
The ACLU learned several months ago about a case where Tallahassee police used a stingray to track a phone to a suspect’s apartment without getting a warrant. Although the detective responsible for the tracking testified in court about using a stingray, in deference to the government’s demand for secrecy the court closed the hearing to the public and sealed the transcript.
The ACLU filed a motion asking the judge to unseal the transcript, citing the public’s First Amendment right of access to court proceedings. In response, the government tried to justify continued secrecy by invoking the federal Homeland Security Act and other federal laws. As the ACLU explained to the court, those laws have no bearing because this case involves state judicial records, and because the government has waived its ability to invoke broad secrecy arguments by already releasing significant information about its use of stingrays.
Late yesterday, the judge ordered unsealing of the entire transcript. The portion that the government had sought to keep secret is here. It confirms key information about the invasiveness of stingray technology, including that:
Stingrays “emulate a cellphone tower” and “force” cell phones to register their location and identifying information with the stingray instead of with real cell towers in the area.
U.S. Marshals Seize Cops’ Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU