Civic News

Dozens of cellphone-tracking stingrays detected in DC

NBC Washington found 40 of the surveillance devices in a few hours.

The "stingray" device acts like a cellphone tower. (Photo via Harris Corp.)

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about “unauthorized” use of devices that mimic cell phone towers to track phones in D.C.

It provided info that the so-called stingray devices could be used by foreign powers, but it remained unclear just how many were being used, and who was using them.

Taking up the case, NBC Washington set out to find where they might be in use. Working with mobile security expert Aaron Turner, the news station’s I-Team detected 40 potential readings that indicated activity in a few hours of monitoring.

Among the readings were in “high-profile areas like outside the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and while driving across the 14th Street bridge into Crystal City,” as well as on K Street.

Some may be law enforcement (which has raised its own set of questions), while other readings came near foreign embassies.

The potential of foreign involvement was raised with the release of the federal report, as well. But NBC Washington’s reporting indicates there’s no quick fix.

“I have bad news for the public: Our privacy isn’t what it once was,” D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh told the station.

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