The American Civil Liberties Union is taking the Baltimore City Police Department to task for its “warrantless and deceptive use of cellphone surveillance devices.”
Local law enforcement is using methods to pinpoint a suspect’s location straight out of a spy agency’s playbook. It’s a cutting edge crime-fighting tool whose trade name is Stingray, which is made by the Harris Corp.
The ACLU calls the practice the invasion of the data snatchers. The problem is, according to the ACLU, Stingray scoops up the personal information contained in the cellphones of everyone in their range.
The ACLU filed a friend of the court brief, alleging the Baltimore City police misled a judge so they could use Stingray. The complaint claims the device violated the Fourth Amendment right of a suspect and allowed police to obtain personal information from other people’s phones.
The device impersonates cellphone towers, prompting all phones within its range to connect to it, picking up everyone’s information, not just the suspect’s personal information. There’s concern it’s being used unlawfully and the data kept in a file.
“The (information includes the) identifier of the phone, all of the calls and texts sent to and from the phone and they have the capability of intercepting communications,” said David Rocah, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland.
Baltimore City police declined to comment, but the city Board of Estimates records indicate city police spent more than $250,000 on the technology.