U.S. House Oversight Committee: Stingray Surveillance Violates Constitution

Derrick Broze – December 20, 2016

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has released a damning new report on law enforcement’s growing use of ‘stingray’ cell phone surveillance tools. 

On Monday, the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a new report that calls for improved oversight and guidelines for law enforcement use of cell site simulators, sometimes known as “Stingrays.” Stingray is the brand name of a popular cell-site simulator manufactured by the Harris Corporation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes Stingrays as “a brand name of an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) Catcher targeted and sold to law enforcement. A Stingray works by masquerading as a cell phone tower – to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not – and tricks your phone into connecting to it.”

This allows the officer who is in possession of the Stingray to know who, when, and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with the latest models,  capture the content of your conversations. As the use of Stingrays has grown quickly in the last five years, the public has largely remained in the dark as investigative journalists work to expose the technology. The issue has finally become mainstream with the latest report from the House Oversight Committee.