A government watchdog has found that the Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) used cell-site simulators, also known as “stingrays,” without warrants on multiple occasions.
The findings, published by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, come as the use of stingrays by law enforcement has come under increasing scrutiny. Stingrays are devices that can mimic cell phone towers, tricking nearby phones into connecting to them. This allows law enforcement to track the location of those phones, as well as intercept their calls and text messages.
The inspector general’s report found that the Secret Service and ICE used stingrays without warrants in at least 10 cases between 2015 and 2017. In some cases, the agencies used stingrays to track people who were not suspected of any crime.
The report also found that the agencies did not always keep adequate records of their use of stingrays. This made it difficult for the inspector general to determine how often the agencies used stingrays without warrants, and for what purposes.
The report’s findings raise concerns about the use of stingrays by law enforcement. Stingrays are powerful surveillance tools that can collect a great deal of information about people’s movements and communications. It is important for law enforcement to obtain warrants before using stingrays, to ensure that they are not used to violate people’s privacy rights.
The inspector general’s report has prompted calls for Congress to pass legislation that would regulate the use of stingrays by law enforcement. Several bills have been introduced in Congress, but none have yet been passed.
In the meantime, the use of stingrays by law enforcement remains a growing concern. As the technology continues to evolve, it is likely that law enforcement agencies will continue to use stingrays to track down suspects and keep communities safe. However, it is important for law enforcement to use stingrays in a way that respects people's privacy rights.
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