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New Justice Policy - Warrant Now Required Before Use of Cell-Site Simulators

Last week, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates announced a new policy on the use of cell-site simulators, a/k/a/ “Stingrays” across Justice Department components.

The new DOJ cell-site simulator policy is intended to ensure the technology is well managed and used consistently across the department, with the appropriate supervision and approval, according to Yates.

The policy provides standard guidance for the use of cell-site simulators in domestic criminal investigations and establishes new management controls on use of the technology. Significantly, the policy now requires a search warrant supported by probable cause before using a cell-site simulator.

An exception can be made for the warrant requirement under exceptional circumstances.

The policy is also designed to boost privacy protections with a set of required practices for the information collected through cell-site simulators. Under the new policy, when a cell-site simulator is used to locate a known cellular device, all data must be deleted as soon as the device is located, and no less than once daily.

The policy also stipulates that cell-site simulators cannot be used to collect the contents of any communication in the course of a criminal investigation. Consequently, data contained on the phone itself, like emails, text, contact lists and images, cannot be collected with cell-site simulators.

“With the issuance of this policy, the Department of Justice reaffirms its commitment to hold itself to the highest standards as it performs its critical work to protect public safety,” said Deputy Attorney General Yates.  “Cell-site simulator technology has been instrumental in aiding law enforcement in a broad array of investigations, including kidnappings, fugitive investigations and complicated narcotics cases.  This new policy ensures our protocols for this technology are consistent, well-managed and respectful of individuals’ privacy and civil liberties.”

Posted in General News


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