On Thursday, a US federal judge in New York delivered a crucial rebuke to the government’s warrantless use of stingrays.
Police also barred from shrouding stingray use in ridiculous NDAs.
In a 14-page opinion, the judge ruled that the government could not use its stingray to locate a drug suspect, asleep in his apartment. As a result of the ruling, the judge suppressed the evidence found in the man’s bedroom—a kilogram of cocaine—likely effectively ending the case.
In March 2016, a state appeals court in Maryland reached a similar finding, but this is believed to be the first federal ruling of its kind.
“This is the first federal ruling I know of in which a judge squarely ruled that the Fourth Amendment requires police to get a warrant to use a stingray and suppressed evidence derived from warrantless use of the technology,” Nathan Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told Ars.
As Ars has long reported, cell-site simulators—known colloquially as stingrays—can be used to determine a mobile phone’s location by spoofing a cell tower. In some cases, stingrays can intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone along with information from other phones within the vicinity. At times, police have falsely claimed the use of a confidential informant when they have actually deployed these particularly sweeping and intrusive surveillance tools.
In recent years, stingray use has come under increasing scrutiny. Several states, including California, Washington, Virginia, Minnesota, and Utah, now mandate that a warrant be issued for use of the devices. Last year, the Department of Homeland …