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DOJ says no to cellphone tracking without a warrant

The ability of law enforcement officials to locate and monitor suspects has expanded exponentially in recent years thanks to the certain technological advancements.

By way of illustration, consider the cellphone-tracking tools readily available to federal, state and even local law enforcement such as the controversial Stingray, a device that has drawn both concern and condemnation from privacy advocates.

For those unfamiliar with this technology, it is essentially able to impersonate a cellphone tower, meaning it establishes connections with any and all cellphones within range given that these devices will automatically search for a signal.

Once these devices connect to the Stingray, they transmit information on both their signal strength and direction that law enforcement can then use to not only isolate a single device but also pinpoint its location.

Perhaps most surprising of all, however, is that this technology is used almost exclusively without any kind of search warrant.

While the Department of Justice maintains Stingrays are incapable of collecting GPS coordinates, eavesdropping on communications or accessing stored data, privacy advocates remain skeptical.

Indeed, this skepticism makes sense when you consider that the DOJ has long been incredibly secretive about the Stingray, even going so far as to urge state and local law enforcement to remain quiet about their use of the technology.    

In recent developments, however, the DOJ has announced that it will no longer be using cellphone-tracking technology without securing a warrant beforehand. Furthermore, it announced that data retention standards outlining how long data collected as part of cellular surveillance can be retained along with an accompanying audit program will be developed.

The move was met with somewhat muted praise by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which pointed out that the 53 law enforcement agencies operating in 21 states and the District of Columbia that are known to own Stingrays are still not covered by this warrant requirement.

It's worth noting that there is currently a push on Capitol Hill to pass some sort of law instituting a universal warrant requirement for all law enforcement agencies using cellphone-tracking technology.

Is this something that you would like to see pass? Does the warrantless use of this technology make you upset or leave you unconcerned?

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