Many people were predicting that the tools developed and laws enacted to counter terrorism would be used by police in non-terrorism cases. They were right.
Stingray technology allows a portable device to mimic a cell phone tower. This link goes to a simple illustration showing how it works. Someone with a Stringray device will drive around with a computer and an antenna. They can either point the antenna in any direction and pick up information about phones within range. Or they can try to isolate a particular phone number by pinging it, then driving around to get enough information to triangulate the phone, thereby getting the phone's location. Source: How ‘Stingray’ Devices Work.
LA Weekly reports that the devices were obtained by the LAPD with funds provided by a Homeland Security grant for terrorism investigations. But they are now being used in routine criminal investigations to bypass cell phone service providers.
The problem is that the technology captures information not just about the phone belonging to the person investigated but about all the phones within range. And the issue is whether a full search warrant or some lesser court order should be required before the technology is used. At least one federal Magistrate thinks the technology, along with cell phone tower dumps, provide too much information about innocent people in the vicinity and its use should require probably cause and a search warrant.
Filed in "Nothing is private anymore."
LAPD Spied on 21 Using StingRay Anti-Terrorism Tool
LAPD using controversial spy tool in routine crime cases
LAPD Spy Device Taps Your Cell Phone
LAPD’s use of “Stingray” cell-phone monitoring tool revealed by FAC public records request
'Stingray' Phone Tracker Fuels Constitutional Clash
How ‘Stingray’ Devices Work
FBI Documents Shine Light on Clandestine Cellphone Tracking Tool
Judge Questions Tools That Grab Cellphone Data on Innocent People
Fighting unconstitutional stingray phone surveillance that tracks innocent people