Florida Police Won't Talk About Their Secret Device That Tracks Your Cell Phone

Categories: Crime

photo by Gizmoman via Wikimedia Commons
How would you feel about police having secret technology that lets them track your exact movements via your cell phone without even having to get a warrant first? Well, it's not a paranoid, PRISM-fueled conspiracy theory. It's happening every day in the Sunshine State, where police agencies are using a device manufactured in Melbourne, Florida, to find suspects using their cell signals without asking a judge for permission.

Even worse, the cops refuse to talk about it. The ACLU has filed records requests with dozens of forces around the state for more information about the devices. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's response: Sorry, the machines are "trade secrets" that can't be discussed.

See also: How often are Miami police secretly tracking our cell phones?

"We usually see this kind of response in the national security area," Nathan Freed Wessler, an ACLU staff attorney, writes in a blog about the efforts this morning. "From a state police agency, it's particularly indefensible."

The device at the heart of the ACLU's records requests is called the Stingray and is made by the Melbourne-based Harris Corp. It works by tricking cell phones into thinking the machine is actually a cell phone tower and then triangulating the phone's exact location from the information it snags.

It's clear that police departments around the state, including the City of Miami and Miami-Dade, have gotten Stingrays. Other departments have admitted in court to using them thousands of times to find suspects without obtaining warrants first.

Advocates such as Wessler say that practice violates due process and is even more troubling because cell phone data from thousands of innocent bystanders is also gathered in the process.

The ACLU sent 36 police forces around the state FOIA requests earlier this month about the Stingrays, including three in Miami-Dade County. Those departments have yet to reply, but FDLE authorities have made it clear they don't believe the public has a right to know much about their use of the Stingray.

In a letter the ACLU posted this morning, the state cops say the software used is a "trade secret" and that "surveillance techniques" are off-limits to FOIA requests. They did admit to spending about $3 million on the devices and signing agreements with numerous local forces allowing them to borrow the machines when needed.

The ACLU has pushed back with another request letter to the FDLE asking for more detailed information about the program.

Here's the FDLE's response:

FDLE Response

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20 comments
sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

it all starts at the top


Obmamamama has ok'd the act and the others follow

Tom Morris
Tom Morris

They run this crap EVERY TIME there's a Miami Heat game at the arena. If you know what you're looking for, you can tell when one's in use...

EC Ferguson
EC Ferguson

yoiu just knew this. Every piece of new technology is a tracker

Joseph Mazon
Joseph Mazon

Its been available to Law enforcement for well over 15 years. Yawn

Chris Schaaff
Chris Schaaff

Be careful Tim, South Florida is listening to you

dnylny
dnylny

The criminals will just use burner phones and the rest of us law abiding citizens will be tracked by the police....wonderful.

Angie Alzola
Angie Alzola

If it means it will help me, by all means...

MyCole Knight
MyCole Knight

Don't be so ready to give up your rights. Because that's how you give up your rights. This is a disgrace.

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

I don't understand the big issue here ? People pair their cell phone with their car or a rental or whatever else with blue tooth all the time. Not a peep about an auto dealership or manufacturer tracking you ? The phone syncs with your car ? imagine the potential for a security breach there ? If the police use this to catch criminals, I have no problem with it, law abiding and if used to make the world a better place I have no issue with it. It's time the texting while driving folks get held for accountability and responsibility ?

Derek Assali Sr
Derek Assali Sr

Invasion of privacy, its none of the police business what you do with your cell phone.

huh83
huh83

Sounds like a conspiracy theory, no evidence to back up this info. Even if they were doing it I don't think they are doing to see what normal people are doing. It might be used in emergency situations when many people are endanger. I prefer the police doing this instead of ad agencies.

James Bratek
James Bratek

Wouldn't this be useful for finding the location of 911 callers? I had assumed all police depts have this necessary technology.

Lisa Marie
Lisa Marie

Comforting!!! If your not doing anything illegal,there is nothing to worry about....

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