RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) — You could be just about anywhere and data on your cell phone can be scooped up by law enforcement without your ever knowing. It happens all the time.
The device that makes it possible is called a “cell site simulator.” That’s the generic name; Stingray is the most common brand name.
Initially developed for military use, Stingrays have made their way into local police and sheriff’s departments around the country. Months ago, the I-Team sent open records requests to every law enforcement agency in our viewing area and learned that three agencies close to home have been using cell site simulators: the Wake County Sheriff’s Department, Durham Police Department, and Raleigh Police Department. A spokesperson for RPD told the I-Team they stopped using theirs when the software needed to be upgraded.
The ACLU’s Mike Meno has been watching Stingrays spread into local law enforcement for years.
“Like a lot of militarized technology and surveillance technology, this is something that was developed overseas and it was developed for one use, but then it comes back home and is used against our own citizens. It’s used here in the States. And the government will say, ‘We need to keep this confidential,’ but we have constitutional rights. We’re supposed to have checks and balances,” he said.