DOJ to Require Warrants for Cellphone Trackers

Posted by at 8:41 am on September 4, 2015

DOJ LogoThe Justice Department has issued new policy concerning the use of Stingrays to collect cellphone data and will require warrants moving forward. Stingrays, also called dirtboxes, mimic cell towers and can record the data of every cell phone they encounter.

The boxes are most often used by federal officers in cars as they drive around seeking specific phones. The issue, complain privacy advocates, is that the Stingrays scoop up data from innocent Americans in the process. The government has used the Stingrays without warrants for years and has held onto the data indefinitely.

In addition to requiring warrants, federal law enforcement will be forced to delete the data collected by Stingrays at least once per day. High-level government officials will have to approve airborne use of the devices, which can grab data from hundreds of thousands of phones. The new federal policy does not apply to local and state police agencies, which report to local judges.

It also doesn’t apply to the Department of Homeland Security, though similar changes are being made there, too. The new federal policy specifically bars government agents from examining the contents of communications snagged by Stingrays, such as phone conversations, text messages, and photos.

The changes are being lauded as a step forward in protecting Americans’ constitutional rights.

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