Nine states this year have placed new legal limits on police cellphone surveillance after disclosures that law enforcement agencies are gathering cellphone data of thousands of people at once, often without warrants or without regard to whether they are criminal targets, reports USA Today. Federal law enforcement agencies continue to help local and state governments prevent release of public records about the secretive cell-snooping device called a Stingray, which acts as a fake cell tower, forcing nearby mobile devices to connect to it and transmit location and other identifying data through it.
Citing anti-terrorism concerns if the public knows more about the technology, the U.S. Department of Justice has testified in cases and offered legal assistance to agencies fighting public records requests about Stingrays in Arizona, California and Florida. After consulting with federal authorities and the device’s manufacturer, some local and state governments released mostly blacked-out purchase records. Many agencies cited homeland security concerns in limiting release of usually routine spending information, although police use Stingrays and related gear mostly for routine crime-fighting.