There has been a lot of talk in the news recently concerning the police and their right to search your cell phone for information. While police need warrants to tap or search your cell phone records in order not to infringe on your rights to privacy and free speech, they are still finding ways to track your phone. Using a device called the StingRay (a cell site simulator also known as KingFish), police can spy in on your phone remotely.
The StingRay is a International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catcher. It’s a small, rectangular device that acts as a cell phone tower that intercepts cell phone signals. According to the Wikipedia page for the StingRay, it is produced by the Harris Corporation and was originally intended for use in military intelligence. Now, law enforcement agencies use them to intercept, texts, calls, emails and more from individuals’ cell phones.
In a weird twist, law enforcement agents must sign a nondisclosure agreement in order to purchase a StingRay. The FBI claims that if law enforcement outfits let it be known that the StingRay is being used, criminals and terrorists will be able to get around it. George Washington University privacy law expert Orin S. Kerr said, “It might be a totally legitimate business interest, or maybe they’re trying to keep people from realizing there are bigger privacy problems. What’s the secret that they’re trying to hide?”
There have been disputes about police departments asking town governments for permission to buy a StingRay for $500,000 and more with taxpayers’ money without expanding on any of the technicalities of the device’s use.