Stingray stung: FBI told 'get a warrant'

DoJ bends a little with new cell-site simulator policy

The US Department of Justice has moved to quell the ongoing row over the use of IMSI-catchers like Stingray, with a new policy that requires a warrant before they're deployed.

The policy, announced here, is designed to “establish a higher and more consistent legal standard and increase privacy protections” for the use of cell-site simulators.

The policy takes effect immediately and applies across all DoJ agencies.

The policy also addresses the understandable fear that anyone's cellphone use could be caught by the devices, merely because they happened to be in the same place at the same time as a Stingray was in use.

The DoJ statement notes that the policy “includes data handling requirements and an agency-level implementation of an auditing program to ensure that data is deleted consistent with this policy. For example, when the equipment is used to locate a known cellular device, all data must be deleted as soon as that device is located, and no less than once daily.”

The controversial devices have been under attack from the ACLU, and lawyers in the US are working through FBI use of Stingrays in case convictions can be appealed.

The new policy has been welcomed by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who released this statement on TwitLonger.

“As I’ve long stated, establishing a high uniform standard helps protect personal privacy and discourages abuse and mishandling of these powerful devices,” he wrote.

He states that the battle isn't over, since there's still secrecy around the use of geolocation technology, and Chaffetz says the DoJ should ”continue to produce information – including the Jones memos – to help Congress and the public understand how the federal government tracks people.” ®

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