In the early morning hours of September 13, 2008, a woman notified the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) that she had been raped and that her purse, containing her mobile phone, had been stolen. Within 24 hours, the Florida capital’s police had contacted Verizon and obtained real-time ping information, which gave the police a “general area” where they might find the phone and thus, hopefully, the perpetrator of the crime. But that general area still covered plenty of ground—where exactly was the phone?
To answer that question, the cops deployed a secretive device called a stingray, which operates as a fake cell phone tower used to track targeted phones. Though law enforcement typically fights attempts to learn how stingrays work or how often they are used, a court victory by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has just unsealed Tallahassee police testimony of exactly how the 2008 cell phone hunt happened.
This newly released transcript (PDF) provides what is likely the first-ever verbatim account of how stingrays are used in actual police operations. And it shows that stingrays are so accurate, they can pinpoint the very room in which a phone is located.
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