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Photo of Stingray from U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Documents Reveal Unregulated Use of Stingrays in California

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:37pm
Local law enforcement agencies across the Bay Area have so-called stingray devices, a powerful cellphone surveillance tool, and more are planning to acquire the technology, according to public records recently obtained by Sacramento News10. The devices are highly intrusive and completely unregulated. Although the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 that they were being used by the federal government, the News10 records reveal for the first time that these devices are also in widespread use by local authorities stretching from San José to Sacramento. The revelations are troubling. Once again, we see the proliferation of powerful new surveillance tools, but without any rules to constrain their use. The acquisition of these devices is shrouded in secrecy and driven by federal grant money, which undermines local democratic oversight. Their actual use by local law enforcement reflects the all too common phenomenon of mission creep: Although the justification for acquiring these devices is “fighting terrorism,” agencies seem to be using them for ordinary criminal law enforcement.
Creepy Government Surveillance Shouldn't Be Kept Secret

Creepy Government Surveillance Shouldn't Be Kept Secret

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:00pm

Shocking revelations about creepy government surveillance came in waves over the summer, from the Snowden leaks to the Hemisphere Project, through which the government has paid AT&T for access to a mind-bogglingly vast database of our telephone…

In Court: Uncovering Stingrays, A Troubling New Location Tracking Device

In Court: Uncovering Stingrays, A Troubling New Location Tracking Device

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 12:42pm

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed an amicus brief in what will be the first case in the country to address the constitutional implications of a so-called “stingray,” a little known device that can be used to track…

Political Speech on Facebook: Like this

Political Speech on Facebook: Like this

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 6:22pm

In a victory for free speech on the Internet, social network giant Facebook last week corrected a mistake that had the unfortunate consequence of blocking political speech and affirmed its commitment to serving as a neutral platform for political advocacy.

DOJ Emails Show Feds Were Less Than "Explicit" With Judges On Cell Phone Tracking Tool

DOJ Emails Show Feds Were Less Than "Explicit" With Judges On Cell Phone Tracking Tool

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 11:06am

(Update below)

A Justice Department document obtained by the ACLU of Northern California shows that federal investigators were routinely using a sophisticated cell phone tracking tool known as a "stingray," but hiding that fact from federal…

Easily Abused, Domestic Drones Raise Enormous Privacy Concerns

Easily Abused, Domestic Drones Raise Enormous Privacy Concerns

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 10:06am

Shortly before next week’s one-year anniversary of the Oakland Police Department’s brutal crackdown on Occupy Oakland, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern announced that he was seeking funds to purchase a drone to engage in unspecified unmanned aerial surveillance.

FOIA Documents Show FBI Was Watching Occupy Protestors, Some Docs Still Secret on National Security Grounds

FOIA Documents Show FBI Was Watching Occupy Protestors, Some Docs Still Secret on National Security Grounds

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 10:23am

Just shy of the one-year anniversary of the inaugural Occupy Wall Street protests, the ACLU of Northern California obtained initial documents from the FBI about surveillance of Occupy demonstrations in the region (see the FBI’s response here).

The…

Court Ruling Gives FBI Too Much Leeway on Surveillance Technology

Court Ruling Gives FBI Too Much Leeway on Surveillance Technology

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 5:09pm

Today, a federal district judge in Arizona issued a very disappointing decision concerning the government’s obligations to be candid with courts about new technologies they are seeking a warrant to use.

The case involves Daniel Rigmaiden, who is being criminally prosecuted for an alleged electronic tax fraud scheme. The government used a surveillance device known as a stingray to locate Mr. Rigmaiden. A stingray operates by simulating a cell tower and tricking all wireless devices on the same network in the immediate vicinity to communicate with it, as though it were the carrier’s cell tower. In order to locate a suspect, a stingray scoops up information not only of the suspect, but all third parties on the same network in the area. This means that when the government uses a stingray to conduct a search, it is searching not only the suspect, but also tens or hundreds of third parties who have nothing to do with the matter. When the FBI sought court permission to use the device to locate Mr. Rigmaiden, it didn’t explain the full reach of stingrays to the court.

The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an amicus brief arguing that when the government wants to use

Fighting for Transparency

Fighting for Transparency

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:51pm

Today, the ACLU of Northern California went to court in two separate cases with the same goal: shedding light on the government's use of controversial and arguably unconstitutional surveillance techniques.

Twitter Subpoenas Chill Free Speech; Latest Example is in San Francisco

Twitter Subpoenas Chill Free Speech; Latest Example is in San Francisco

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:52pm

In a disturbing trend that can have a chilling effect on free speech, law enforcement agencies around the country are seeking wide-ranging information about the social networking activity of political activists. The San Francisco District Attorney…

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