Civil Rights Groups Accuse Baltimore Police of Unlawful Use of ‘Stingray’ Cellphone Tracker

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The Center for Media Justice, Color of Change, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute have filed a 38-page complaint to the Federal Communications Commission over the Baltimore Police Department’s use of stingray cellphone surveillance devices.

The complaint calls the BPD’s use of stingrays “a clear violation of law,” given that the department has no license whatsoever to operate its [cell site] simulator equipment” on particular frequency bands” and that it is “willfully interfering with the cellular network.”

The complaint also makes reference to a damning report from the Department of Justice which lays out BPD’s history of racially biased policing to argue that African-Americans in Baltimore “suffer disproportionate harms” from police use of cell site simulators.

Questionable use of stingray devices is not unique to Baltimore. Laura Moy, who wrote the complaint, explained to Ars Technica that Baltimore was chosen as a target because of its “long and clear history of racially biased policing” in addition to its “incredibly heavy use of these devices.”

Chris Soghoian, of the American Civil Liberties Union, told Ars Technica he’s “not optimistic” about the outcome of the complaint,”just because I think the FCC believes protecting law enforcement’s ability to spy is more important than Americans ability to make emergency calls.”



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