Applaud Privacy Protection Ruling


Target: Susan N. Herman, President of the American Civil Liberties Union

Goal: Praise efforts to fight unwarranted cellphone data gathering

Information about police use of data gathering software has been made available to the public. A Florida judge recently ruled in favor of a request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for sealed court documents about “stingrays,” cellphone tracking tools used by law enforcement officials. Testimony from the hearing reveals startling information about the frequency of unwarranted police surveillance, but opens the floor for public discourse and legal actions.

Stingrays, also known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers, mimic cellphone tower signals and allow police to intercept information about outgoing and incoming calls, text messages and internet traffic data. The portable devices can be used to triangulate location data more precisely than cellphone towers. The stingray is a mass-target device, meaning that thousands of people can be monitored at any given time.

A request for the information was filed after the ACLU was made aware of a case where police used stingray technology to track a suspect to his apartment without a warrant. Soon after police testified in court to use of the device the court closed the trial to the public and sealed the transcript. In this case, the police moved the invasive surveillance device through apartment hallways in order to track the suspect to his home.

This landmark ruling to release court records reveals important information that could help consumers protect themselves from unwarranted data collection. It will also allow public discussion and possible legal action in order to establish rules for the use of stingray tracking devices. Commend the ACLU’s efforts to provide Americans with the information necessary to uphold their privacy rights.


Dear Ms. Herman,

Congratulations on the ACLU’s successful bid to unseal court records discussing the use of stingray technology, invasive cellphone tracking and data gathering devices. In the case in question, a stingray device was used without a warrant to track a suspect to his apartment by intercepting his cellphone signals and triangulating them.

Court documents confirm the alarming frequency of this tracking, often times without a warrant. While this revelation is appalling it will allow American citizens to take steps such as legal action and public discourse to protect their own rights to privacy. I commend your efforts to uphold privacy rights, and wish you success in your continued work to end warrantless cellphone tracking and data collection.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Michael Hanscom via Flickr

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