Judge OKs FBI Tracking Tool That Tricks Cellphones With Clandestine Signal

Back in March, the FBI was accused of hiding information from judges when seeking authorization for a clandestine cellphone tracking device called the “Stingray.” But now a judge has ruled that the feds’ use of the surveillance tool was lawful in a case that could have wider ramifications for law enforcement spy tactics.

The Stingray, sometimes described as an “IMSI catcher,” is a transceiver used by the FBI to locate suspects. As I have reported here previously, it sends out a signal that tricks phones within a targeted area into hopping onto a fake network. Civil liberties groups have challengedthe lawfulness of the Stingray’s deployment, particularly because it intentionally gathers data from innocent bystanders’ phones and interferes with signals in a way that may be barredunder a federal communications law. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act have also appeared to show that the FBI knows its use of the device is in shaky legal territory. The technology has been used in some capacity by the feds for almost two decades, but only recently has it garnered attention, in part because of a court case in Arizona—U.S. v. Rigmaiden.


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