Law Enforcement Use Of Sting Ray

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Senate have recently called upon the FCC to take action on the use of Sting Ray cell tower simulators. Law enforcement have used Stingray devices to pinpoint the location of a criminal they are searching for. Stingrays use often jams the airwaves and has an indiscriminate affect on every citizen in the surrounding area. Federal law mandates that every consumer device that emits an electromagnetic signal be approved by the FCC. This is meant to ensure that these airwaves stay usable by other citizens without major interference. Law Enforcement use of Stingrays flies directly in the face of that.

I think things like this are pretty relevant in terms of internet communication. Law enforcement has to get a warrant to get data from cellular service providers but this takes a lot more time than just using a Stingray. When they want data from ISPs, they also have to get a warrant but it makes me wonder if there is a Stingray equivalent for ISPs. It also makes me wonder if they can intercept cell phone traffic, which supposedly is very secure, what else could they intercept? Wifi traffic? Bluetooth traffic?

We’ve mentioned IoT a few times and its rising prominence over the past few years. As it becomes more relevant and popular, in what ways will Law Enforcement use Stingrays or Stingray-like devices to capture IoT traffic to conduct its investigations? IoT could potentially have vital life sustaining medical or other mission critical applications in the future. Stingray use has proven to inadvertently blocked 911 calls. It’s not hard to imagine what could also happen to IoT devices of the future. There are plenty of FCC laws against this type of wireless interference. Despite this, the FCC still certified the sale of Stingrays specifically to Law Enforcement. With a vague warrant system currently in place, Stingrays end up getting used for minor non-violent crimes. Does this set a precedent for future wireless communications devices? Who watches the watchman?

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