Limitations on Stingray Devices
Stingray devices are used prevalently throughout the state of Illinois by local and state police departments. These powerful pieces of equipment, also known as “cell site simulators” or “IMSI catchers” mimic a standard cell phone tower. They are useful in tracking cell phones by sending out signals to a cellular device which allows the operator to locate the responding phone. However, with this technology comes the rise of privacy concerns as the device also returns data regarding the phones of those who are not under investigation. The problem motivated Illinois legislators to alter the state’s laws to protect the rights of Illinois citizens .
Why Are They Used?
A Stingray is only about the size of a suitcase but can intercept, collect, access, transfer, or forward the data received or stored by hundreds or thousands of cell phones within any given geographic area. Although they are not used throughout the entire United States, the cities and states that have them have been able to assist those in need. For instance, in October the technology helped in locating a 6-year-old girl in Arizona. When the device is in active mode, a compatible device is forced to disconnect from the actual cell tower and connect with the simulator, forcing all devices in the area to identify their location with the use of radio waves.
Police are not able to limit the information they gather to that from a single device. This means that they obtain an extensive amount of information from devices belonging to those who are not even on a suspect list. Not only are police able to find the location of each device but they are also able to listen in on conversations without the knowledge of the user. This information potentially remains in storage for an untold amount of time, able to be recalled for other unrelated crimes. Additionally, concerns exist for the usage of the information, for instance, to profile behavior such as regular visits to a doctor or political meeting attendance.
The New Changes
In a recent act concerning the use of cell site simulator devices, Illinois limited the scope of usage for the devices. The new law limits Stingray devices as well as any other telephone surveillance or eavesdropping devices and mobile stations.
The new changes state:
- Law enforcement is prohibited from using the devices unless they are strictly tracking a device or identifying a singular device;
- Officers must apply for a court order (warrant) on the basis of probable cause that the individual has, is, or is about to commit a crime; and
- Any data received from devices which are not targeted and are not affiliated with the applicable warrant must be deleted within 24 hours.
If you are on the wrong side of a cell-site simulator device and the police obtained information about you without your knowledge, the new law protects your rights. To discuss your legal options with a proven and experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Jack L Zaremba. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free initial consultation.