Judges Toss Out Stingray Evidence

/ 4 years ago


After all the reports in recent years about governments tracking and reading users mobile phones, it’s become known for the first time that a judge has thrown out evidence obtained via the mobile interception technology known as Stingrays.

The 14-page opinion comes from district judge William H. Pauley. While this ruling has been heard of before, this is the first time a federal judge has come forward and addressed the issue of warrantless stingrays.

Used to intercept and locate mobile phones, the Stingray devices act as if they are false mobile towers intercepting and sometimes even storing the data that goes through them. This has let police and federal agencies read information and track a specific mobile phone over a wide area, even though their existence was unknown thanks to several “confidential informants” that never truly existed.

This case follows the use of a Stingray by the Drug Enforcement Agency just days before the Department of Justice started its use of a new set of rules around the device including one requiring a warrant. Pauley wrote that “absent a search warrant, the Government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device”.

A ruling that is often used to argue for recent trends for tracking users comes from a ruling back in 1979 in which a supreme court stated that you don’t have an interest in privacy with any data you hand over to third parties, such as phone companies. If the agencies are allowed to use this decision then any data, be it from your computer or phone, would be considered publicly available for the government to intercept.

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