Congress Eyeing StingRay Cell Devices, New Regulations

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Congress is now giving a closer look at a device that mimics a cell tower to spy on cell phones after two federal agencies said they will require a warrant to used the tool called a StingRay. The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have both recently said they will require warrants to use the devices and on Oct. 21, the House Oversight subcommittee heard testimony from Seth Stodder, an assistant secretary at Homeland Security. The day before the hearing, Homeland Security issued a detailed memo outlining guidelines for using StingRays but critics are still pushing for tighter control over the devices.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has previously pressed for answers on the technology, said the legal memo was a positive first step, but pointed to “problematic” exceptions, according to TheHill newspaper.

“I am disappointed that DHS has included the same problematic exception to the warrant requirement that is in the Justice Department’s policy. Additionally, this policy is limited to criminal investigations, and it is not clear what rules will apply to any use of cell-site simulators for other DHS missions,” Leahy said.

The American Civil Liberties Union also had problems with the new policy, which it said is “riddled with loopholes.”

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