Federal marshals recently seized a local police agency’s records on cell phone surveillance to keep it from public disclosure, demonstrating the importance of prohibiting dragnet surveillance at the state level.

Sarasota, Fla. police were apparently secretly tracking individuals’ cell phones without a warrant using a device called a Stingray, according to the ACLU.

“Stingrays track phones by mimicking service providers’ cell towers and sending out powerful signals that trick nearby phones — including phones of countless bystanders — into sending their locations and identifying information.”

Earlier this year, the police signed a non-disclosure agreement with the company that makes the Stingrays. In an effort to reveal secret tracking of individuals the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed motion after motion to obtain records.

“But regardless, once the Sarasota Police Department received our records request, state law required them to hold onto the records for at least 30 days, to give us an opportunity to go to court and seek an order for release of the documents.”

That never happened. Instead, US Marshals stepped in, raided the police department, and seized all the records pertaining to the cellphone tracking technology. The US Marshals didn’t seize the documents to expose corruption. Instead, the US Marshals seized the documents so these records never see the light of day.

Dragnet surveillance does not happen just at the federal level. Local and state resources are being used to track lawful individuals without a search warrant on a mass scale. This intelligence is then being shared between multiple government agencies and jurisdictions.

To stop dragnet surveillance, stop it at the local level first. Simply put, if the state is prohibited from collecting the data, there’s nothing for the feds to seize.

There are 3 solutions to stop surveillance locally.

    Introduce the following:

  1. 4th Amendment Protection Act.
    • Bans state from taking actions which provide “material support” or assistance to warrantless federal spying programs.
  2. Electronic Data Privacy Act.
    • Bans the use of warrantless data in court.
  3. Freedom From Location Surveillance Act.
    • Bans state and local law enforcement from obtaining the location information of a person’s electronic device without a warrant.

Click here to find model legislation to stop dragnet surveillance.

Kelli Sladick

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