After prevailing in its lawsuit against the Erie County Sheriff’s Office over the use of taxpayer-funded cell phone spying equipment, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is revealing details of how the equipment is used.
The cell phone surveillance equipment is called the Stingray, which costs $350,000. It allows the sheriff’s office to track and record the location of a person through their cell phone.
The NYCLU says records from the sheriff’s office shows it has been used at least 47 times between May 1, 2010 and October 3, 2014, including to assist other law enforcement agencies like the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
In those instances, documents show that the sheriff’s office obtained a court order only once, even though the sheriff made statement to local media and the Erie County Legislature that each use of the device was subject to “judicial review.” The court order that was obtained in October 2014 was not a warrant, but a lower level court order called a “pen register” order.
“These records confirm some of the very worst fears about local law enforcement’s use of this expensive and intrusive surveillance equipment,” said NYCLU Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose. “Not only did the Sheriff’s Office promise the FBI breathtaking secrecy to keep information about stingrays as hidden as possible, it implemented almost no privacy protections for the Erie County residents it is sworn to protect and serve.”