Illinois has now joined the ever-expanding list of states that require law enforcement officials to explicitly seek court approval before deploying cell-site simulators, which can locate and track a person’s cell phone without their knowledge.
On Friday, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed the “Citizen Privacy Protection Act” into law, which will take effect on January 1, 2017.
The application to the court “must include a description of the nature and capabilities of the cell site simulator device to be used and the manner and method of its deployment, including whether the cell site simulator device will obtain data from non-target communications devices.” The law also requires the “immediate deletion” of non-target data obtained via the cell-site simulator.
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 …