Civic News

Unauthorized use of stingray devices detected in DC

The revelation came from the federal government. According to the AP, there's not much detail available about who is using the cell phone tracking devices.

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

Use of controversial cell phone surveillance devices was detected in D.C., but officials don’t know who’s behind it.

According to the Associated Press, a letter released this week by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicated unauthorized use of the device, commonly known as stingrays.

Stingrays are cell site simulator devices that mimic a cell phone tower, and find the location of a specific phone. Police departments in cities including D.C. have used the devices to locate suspects. The devices can be placed in cars, and also in planes. They’ve been used by police in secret, and the devices have been at the heart of a debate over privacy.

In this case, there seems to be concern about foreign powers using the devices without permission. The federal government responded to a request made by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden about whether stingrays were being used by foreign governments. Yet, details are murky. While it said activity consistent with devices was detected, the letter indicated the government does not how many devices were detected or who is using them.

They could be rampant, as the president of one consultant told the AP that every embassy “worth their salt” has one installed.

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