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Cops Say NDA Kept Them from Notifying Courts About Cell Phone Tracking Gadget 235

schwit1 writes "Police in Florida have offered a startling excuse for having used a controversial 'stingray' cell phone tracking gadget 200 times without ever telling a judge: the device's manufacturer made them sign a non-disclosure agreement that they say prevented them from telling the courts. The shocking revelation, uncovered by the American Civil Liberties Union, came during an appeal over a 2008 sexual battery case in Tallahassee in which the suspect also stole the victim's cell phone. Using the stingray — which simulates a cell phone tower in order to trick nearby mobile devices into connecting to it and revealing their location — police were able to track him to an apartment."
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Cops Say NDA Kept Them from Notifying Courts About Cell Phone Tracking Gadget

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  • Re:WTF???? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:36PM (#46389445) Homepage
    of course not, but intercepting all other people in the areas communications is
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:40PM (#46389483)

    If a contract requires you break the law, you are legally obligated to refuse to sign

    Not really. If contract is in violation of municipal, state, or federal laws, either in whole or in part, the contract is unenforcable. E.g. if your contract states you must smoke weed while performing some duty, it is illegal to smoke weed and so the contract would not hold up in court. However, most contracts have a provision which would only mark the unenforcable section invalid but due to seperation of parts the rest can be considered valid E.g. if your contract states you must not drive between certain hours and in another section states you must smoke weed, the provision would mean not smoking weed won't violate your contract but driving outside of the hours would.

    I always look for contracts that have illegal provisions and make sure I sign the document. Then I can get out of the contract without worry.

  • Re:WTF???? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:50PM (#46389577)

    You broke the law because if you'd told the courts you'd be breaking an NDA with the company?

    They didn't break the law. TFS is written in a way that makes the reader presuppose the use of these devices is illegal without a warrant. From TFA:

    The government has long asserted that it doesn't need to obtain a probable-cause warrant to use the devices because they don't collect the content of phone calls and text messages but rather operate like pen-registers and trap-and-traces, collecting the equivalent of header information.

    They did not want to obtain a search warrant to enter the apartment âoebecause they did not want to reveal information [to a judge] about the technology they used to track the cell phone signal, the appellate judges note.

    "[Wh]en police use invasive surveillance equipment to surreptitiously sweep up information about the locations and communications of large numbers of people, court oversight and public debate are essential,â the [ACLU] noted in its post.

    So the current state of affairs is that there is no law (yet) concerning use of these devices, and some in the government are arguing that no law is needed. There being no law, law enforcement did not want to rock the boat by revealing the devices to the courts so that there might be a new law made (either through legislation or court precedent). The ACLU is arguing that there should be a law prohibiting their use without a warrant.

    TFS is written as if the ACLU stance is the current state of affairs, and law enforcement sought to work around it. In fact it's the other way around. Use of these devices is currently legal, and law enforcement sought to keep it that way by not revealing them to the courts so that no ruling on their use would be made. The ACLU is trying to argue for a law requiring a warrant to use these devices.

  • Re:Surprisingly lazy (Score:5, Informative)

    by memojuez ( 910304 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:53PM (#46389607)

    If you RTFA, you will see that the Police forced their way into the apartment after the suspect's girlfriend would not let them in with-out a warrant. the police did not get a search warrant to enter the residence to ... “because they did not want to reveal information [to a judge] about the technology they used to track the cell phone signal,” the appellate judges note.

    Also from TFA: Authorities opted not to get a warrant either for the use of the Stingray or the search of the apartment, simply because they didn’t want to tell the judge what they were using to locate the suspect...

    This is a two-fold disregard of the constitution.

  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:05PM (#46389705)

    You mean like illegally tapping telephones then giving obviously bogus justifications to the court?

    Don't worry. No matter how many cases like this we know about, the next time you are in a courtroom and it's your word against the police officer's, you will lose. Every time.

    So you see, they have everything under control.

  • Re:WTF???? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:09PM (#46389727)

    Yes, if you don't have a warrant. And the police in this case indeed did not have one, since to get one they'd have to tell the judge about the device.

  • Re:Surprisingly lazy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:34PM (#46389991) Homepage Journal

    Stingrays *do not track single phones*.

    They slurp up all the cell phone connections in a rather large area. It's like tapping every phone in a neighborhood to find one suspected grow operation.

    Every single connection that a Stingray made would have to have a warrant attached to it. See Commonwealth v. Augustine.

    And they have apparently been doing this for a while. I have a feeling TPD is going to be responsible for allowing a lot of criminals in the Tallahassee area to have their charges / convictions thrown out.

  • Re:Surprisingly lazy (Score:5, Informative)

    by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @05:43PM (#46390691)

    Lets imagine that I report a painting stolen from my house. Do the police need a warrant to make enquires about the possible location of my painting?


    Do the police need a warrant to search a house/apartment if they're absolutely sure stolen property is inside?

    Yes, absolutely.

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?