California police criticized for 'stingray' cellphone trackers

Handsets nearby feed location data to the devices as if they were cell towers

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

The federal government has funded stingrays for anti-terrorism efforts on the local level. For example, in 2013, San Jose received about US$250,000 for one or more stingrays from the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Areas Security Initiative. That program is designed to head off terrorism and other hazards. But in some cases the local agencies have brought the devices into ordinary law enforcement, such as the Oakland Police Department's use of stingrays in its Criminal Investigative Division, the ACLU said.

Because stingrays are typically funded through federal grants, they also bypass the local scrutiny of an agency's regular budget, according to the ACLU. If local citizens knew about such devices, they might block their use, Lye wrote.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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