Stingrays, also known as “cell site simulators” or “IMSI catchers,” are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information. When used to track a suspect’s cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby.
Stingray surveillance is a serious problem. And that’s because law enforcement across the country is pretty much given a free pass to violate our Fourth Amendment rights in the name of safety.
A bill in Florida could help the state to put an end to the practice, telling the federal government to go get a warrant.
Recently, Senate Bill 1256, a bill that would ban location tracking and stingray use in the Sunshine State was approved by three Florida Senate committees. If turned into law, the bill could help to slow down federal surveillance as it wouldn’t give law enforcement the power to sweep up communications content.
Without access to data collected by local agencies, federal agents would have to pursue their cases and investigations by getting a warrant.
But the bill also protects Floridians from abuse perpetrated by local officers. With the piece of legislation in place, police would have to get a warrant before accessing information from a cell phone service provider.
There are a few exceptions that law enforcement may use to forego meeting the warrant requirement in the bill. That includes emergency situations such as immediate danger or death or serious injury, or when prisoners could escape. Still, police would be required to obtain a warrant within 48 hours.
According to The Tenth Amendment Center, if this bill becomes law it could thwart the federal government’s surveillance machine.
Stingray technology and programs are often funded by the federal government. When state uses these programs, they sign non-disclosure agreements, which prevent officials from disclosing how stingrays are used. As such, Americans themselves are left in the dark as to how far law enforcement is going to obtain our personal data.
With so much access, the feds then can share this data with other agencies. When states like Florida act to protect locals from having their personal information being stored in such manner, then they act to actively nullify the federal government’s unconstitutional policies.
Hopefully, Florida lawmakers will pass this piece of legislation, paving the way for other states to follow.