The New York Police Department is still refusing to release basic information about quasi-secret cellphone mass-surveillance devices colloquially known as Stingrays, according to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
In February, the NYCLU obtained documents showing that the infamously opaque police department had deployed Stingrays over 1,000 times since 2008 without having any written policy whatsoever governing their use. Like other departments, the NYPD doesn’t get a search warrant to use the devices, relying instead on “pen register” orders that don’t require cops to show probable cause of a crime.
But not included was information on the cost and type of Stingrays, the brand name for a class of device called cell-site simulators, which emulate cellphone towers to track nearby phones but can also be configured to record call logs and intercept text messages en-masse. Earlier this week, another FOIA request from the NYCLU revealed that police in Rochester, New York spent more than $200,000 on a Stingray device that it uses to track suspected gang members.
Now the NYCLU is suing to get that contract information from the NYPD, which has since been revealed by many other police departments.