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Archive for the ‘private life’ tag

The Use of Stingrays: Lines between Public and Private Life Unclear

July 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Christopher M. Cosley, citizens’ rights, constitutional rights, Cook County criminal lawyer, private life, Stingrays, violation of citizens’ rightsTechnology is expanding and being developed at a more rapid pace than ever. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising that numerous instances involving police searching practices are presenting issues about the violation of citizens’ rights. More specifically, the argument centers around whether the police tactics are an invasion of privacy or whether the information would otherwise be available to the public. A recent article discussed this issue within the context of law enforcement use of a specific type of surveillance technique.

The Use of Stingrays

Illinois State Police allegedly began using devices called Stingrays around 2008. This is only one of the law enforcement agencies in the majority of states across the country that have decided to employ the use of such devices. Stingrays are mobile devices that obtain and record information from cell phones when the phones connect to mobile towers. The practice is considered by many to be less than ethical in conducting surveillance. Even more troubling is that this information was supposedly previously unknown until it was discovered through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

The Stingrays essentially work as hacking devices by appearing as if they were a base station, which causes any cell phone in the area to disable its encryption, allowing the Stingray to gather a large amount of data from the phone, excluding communication content. Not all cell phone companies or wireless providers use networks that would be compatible with Stingray technology, but some popular wireless providers may be making the switch in the near future.

Violation of Rights?

According to the article, an increasing number of law enforcement agencies are employing the use of Stingray devices. Despite this growing use, there is an issue as to the violation of civil liberties since the activity is essentially a warrantless search of targeted individuals, and an acquisition of all signals within a certain area, including those of innocent bystanders. Surveillance techniques can also include downloading a specific mobile tower’s entire activity over a set period of time, which would include information related to every mobile device that connected to the tower during that time period.

In some instances, the acquisition and use of the Stingray devices has been tied to anti-terror grants and the overall war on terror effort. While this connection may be authentic in some cases, it is questionable whether anti-terrorism efforts are the true reason behind the use of Stingray devices, particularly when such use is increasing and widespread.

Court rulings on the issue of whether rights are violated by law enforcement’s use of these devices are split. The practice involves unwarranted mass surveillance, but the use of the Stingray devices usually involves a high level of secrecy. Both the manufacturer and police agencies have a history of being uncooperative with requests for information from different groups and organizations. They have attributed this, in part, to the desire not to compromise ongoing or future investigations. The concern of many is for courts to determine what the parameters of reasonable use is involving such surveillance devices, along with clearly defining personal versus public space.

Cook County Criminal Defense Attorney

All U.S. citizens have a certain expectation of privacy and deserve protection from infringement on those rights. If you have been charged with a crime and believe your constitutional rights may have been compromised in the process, please contact an experienced Cook County criminal lawyer at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation. Our office is located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

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