Big: Federal court rules use of ‘Stingray’ wireless monitoring device requires a warrant

Big: Federal court rules use of ‘Stingray’ wireless monitoring device requires a warrant
A real cell tower. (Image: Flickr, Carl Lender via Bus. Insider)

[Ed. – This is a big deal.  Federal agencies have been using the Stingray “black box” for some time now as a dragnet measure, basically to get around the need for warrants in counternarcotics, urban unrest, and potential terrorism cases.  I am glad the court ruled as it has, and hope it holds up.  But law enforcement is going to have to do some adjusting.]

Law enforcement use of one tracking tool, the cell-site simulator, to track a suspect’s phone without a warrant violates the Constitution, the D.C. Court of Appeals said Thursday in a landmark ruling for privacy and Fourth Amendment rights as they pertain to policing tactics.

The ruling could have broad implications for law enforcement’s use of cell-site simulators, which local police and federal agencies can use to mimic a cell phone tower to the phone connect to the device instead of its regular network.

In a decision that reversed the decision of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and overturned the conviction of a robbery and sexual assault suspect, the D.C. Court of Appeals determined the use of the cell-site simulator “to locate a person through his or her cellphone invades the person’s actual, legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her location information and is a search.”

The Stingray cell-tracker box, bought on the sly recently by a number of government agencies. (Image via OC Register)

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