Homeland Security Announces to Stop Using Tracking Devices on Phones

After years of controversy following the release of embarrassing documents by Edward Snowden, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies have suffered a PR nightmare.

But a new memo released from the Department of Homeland Security announced that the agency has had a recent change of heart. It will no longer use ‘stingray’ technology to track the mobile phones of Americans. The memo announced that the department will now operate within the protections granted by the Constitution of the United States.

This is an important moment in federal surveillance. Law enforcement agencies often refused to admit that devices like ‘stringray’ even existed.

The existence of this device was not admitted through a new-found generosity of the federal government. Its acknowledgement came after several Freedom of Information Act requests and some police testimony.

stingray
Stingray device

The device is frequently used. It has been reported in 22 out of the 50 states. It has also been used in a combination effort between the CIA and the U.S. Marshals. The operation included flying the stingray over American cities to track suspects as well as using weBoost 471104 cell phone boosters to eavesdrop on people.

Technically, the use of these devices requires a warrant from a judge. The only time law enforcement can legally use these spying devices without court approval is if evidence is in danger. It can also be used when a person is in immediate danger.

The controversy behind these devices lie within the technology itself. The ‘stingray’ simulates a cell phone tower to help track cellphones. But the problem lies in all the other cell phone data gathered in the process from innocent passersby.

This is the first time that the DHS has acknowledged the use of these devices.

But the announcement was due less to a change of heart or a new interpretation of the Constitution. The Department of Justice released new rules for federal agencies in September. These included the new rules say that the DHS and other agencies must now get a warrant before using ‘stingray’.

It seems that the new policies are at last catching up with the increasing advancements in spying and tracking technology.

Khurram Aziz is a web entrepreneur who trained as a journalist. He is a freelance writer, runs online ventures, and consults on WordPress and Magento web development.