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DoJ: Federal Law Enforcement Needs Warrant for Stingray

Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced new policies that require federal law enforcement agents to acquire a warrant before using the infamous ‘stingrays.’:

“While the department has, in the past, obtained appropriate legal authorizations to use cell-site simulators, law enforcement agents must now obtain a search warrant supported by probable cause before using a cell-site simulator.  There are limited exceptions in the policy for exigent circumstances or exceptional circumstances where the law does not require a search warrant and circumstances make obtaining a search warrant impracticable.”

Some may not know what a ‘stingray’ is, but it is the cellular equivalent to a rogue wireless access point. It allows police/government to listen to your cell phone calls, and intercept your text messages.

For the most part, this policy sounds pretty fantastic and a great step to better policies that have privacy in mind. Though, there still needs to be state and/or city level legislation that mirrors these policies. Currently, most local police departments have no requirement to obtain a warrant before using a stingray. States like Minnesota, however, have enacted legislation that requires local police departments to get warrants before using a stingray.

While the DoJ’s release sounds fantastic, there still is some loose wording that could allow abuse. Specifically: “There are limited exceptions in the policy for exigent circumstances or exceptional circumstances where the law does not require a search warrant and circumstances make obtaining a search warrant impracticable.” Only time will tell if this loose wording is taken advantage of. If history tells us anything, there will likely still be abuses, even with this restriction.

Published inFBILawPoliticsPrivacySurveillance

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