Civil rights groups have complained to the Federal Communications Commission over the Baltimore Police Department’s use of the cell phone tracking technology known as stingray, alleging that the way police use it interferes with emergency calls and is racially discriminatory, the Baltimore Sun reports. The complaint argues that the police department doesn’t have a proper license to use the devices and is in violation of federal law. It calls on federal regulators to step in and formally remind law enforcement agencies of the rules.
“The public is relying on the Commission to carry out its statutory obligation to do so, to fulfill its public commitment to do so, and to put an end to widespread network interference caused by rampant unlicensed transmissions made by [the Baltimore police] and other departments around the country,” the groups say. The case is being brought by Center for Media Justice, Color of Change, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. The use of stingrays, also known as cell site simulators, was long shrouded in secrecy and many details about their use is not publicly known. The devices imitate a cell phone tower so that nearby phones connect to them instead of the normal network, allowing police to gather information such as the location of a handset.