The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has halted a plan to approve the purchase of a cell-site simulator, better known as a stingray.
The secretive surveillance devices can be used to determine a phone’s location, but they can also intercept calls and text messages. During the act of locating a phone, stingrays also sweep up information about nearby phones—not just the target phone. Earlier this year, Ars reported on how the FBI is actively trying to “prevent disclosure” of how these devices are used in local jurisdictions across America.
The move, happening in one of the primary counties in Silicon Valley, marks an unusual occasion that a local government has turned away from federal funds that would be used to acquire such a device. The device was approved initially during a February 24, 2015 meeting, despite a testy exchange between the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office and Supervisor Joe Simitian, a former state senator with a penchant for an interest in privacy issues. Simitian’s office didn’t immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
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