The Department of Justice (DOJ) is going to pull back the curtain and conduct a formal review of how, when, and why it uses mobile phone surveillance devices, commonly known as stingrays, according to a report Sunday evening from the Wall Street Journal. However, the DOJ has yet to determine exactly when and how this will occur.
Devlin Barrett, the WSJ reporter who broke the story, tweeted that the internal review began before recently-departed Attorney General Eric Holder left office. According to the story, an unnamed DOJ spokesman said that the agency is “examining its policies to ensure they reflect the Department’s continuing commitment to conducting its vital missions while according appropriate respect for privacy and civil liberties.”
Not only can stingrays, or cell-site simulators, be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone as well as information from other innocent phones within the vicinity. For years, federal and local law enforcement have tried to keep their existence a secret while simultaneously upgrading their capabilities.
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