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Privacy? Gone forever.
Police in Tacoma, Washington, bought – and quietly used for six years – surveillance equipment that can sweep up records of every mobile telephone call, text message, and data transfer up to a half-mile from the device.
Known as a Stingray and manufactured by Harris (HRS), a Pentagon contractor based in Melbourne, Fla., the device is small enough to be carried in a car. It tricks a mobile phone into thinking it’s a cell tower, drawing information, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.
Federal grants, including one from the Department of Homeland Security, were used to buy the equipment, according to public records the newspaper obtained.
Use of the technology is widespread across the U.S. More than 40 law enforcement agencies in 17 states have similar monitoring equipment, known as “cell site simulators” or “IMSI catchers,” says the American Civil Liberties Union. Police in Oakland, California, has had a Stingray since 2007, when an annual report cited 21 electronic surveillance arrests, the group says.