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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:00PM (#46389113)

    Confidentiality agreements do not supersede the law, court orders, the constitution, or anything else. Private contractual agreements always take a back seat to binding Law and Court Orders.

    The police department in question probably asked for an NDA to give them rationalization for breaking the law.

  • by Kimomaru ( 2579489 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:09PM (#46389207)
    So, I'm not a lawyer, but I guess the thinking applied here is that an NDA can be used to not comply with the law? So, by that reasoning, can anyone scribble an NDA on a napkin and get away with anything?
  • NDA Law? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:09PM (#46389211) Homepage Journal

    Since when does a contract, any contract, supersede the legal system?

    Oh, right - they don't, and this bullshit excuse for illegal use of surveillance equipment is exactly the out this scumbag rapist needs to get acquitted.

    Nice work, morons.

  • Re:WTF???? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:30PM (#46389405) Homepage Journal

    On one side, they had an NDA prevention any disclosures about the device or it's use. On the other, if they used it they were obligated to tell the courts about it.

    The legal solution is simple and obvious: don't use the damned thing. It's the only way to obey the law and avoid breech of contract at the same time.

    In a situation where you actually cannot obey the law and a contract at the same time, the contract term is null and void. No legal contract can require a violation of the law.

  • Re:WTF???? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:44PM (#46389517) Homepage

    More likely, they simply lied and made up an excuse where they look stupid, to protect themselves against looking criminal.

    Most likely the NDA requires that they ask the court to seal documents, if it mentions the courts at all; most likely it was to prevent them from telling the media, or anybody else.

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:50PM (#46389569)

    Indeed. They say that bad cases make bad law, and I'd say this one qualifies in spades. Either a rapist escapes justice, or we get some really horrible precedent established with regards to government surveillance. Then again maybe not - most rapists don't conveniently get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, hopefully the rest of the evidence is convincing enough that the guy rots anyway, even if the arrest itself was blatantly illegal.

    I really wish we'd at see some cases of individual police officers convicted for blatant disregard of the constitution - not the police department, as is usually the case, with penalties being passed back to the tax payers, I want to see the individual officers responsible doing hard time. I can see granting a little leeway for conventional law - there's way too many of those for any person to keep track of what is and is not illegal, but the constitution is the supreme law of the land, short enough to read completely on your lunch break, and mostly written in clear and concise language. There's no fucking excuse for those whom we grant the sacred trust of enforcing the law to *ever* violate the Constitution.

  • Re:WTF???? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:17PM (#46389813)

    Why is it that posts which actually shed some light on what is actually happening in the situation are always at the bottom of a thread? This appears to be the sad state of affairs on /. Seriously, even if I disagree with someone, I always just scroll to the bottom of a thread to get something even remotely insightful about something.

  • Re:WTF???? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:17PM (#46389815) Homepage Journal

    Using illegally gathered location data (for the stolen phone as well as the other $LARGENUMBER people in the area) & then failing to get a warrant to enter the premises after being refused entrance by the suspect's girlfriend is where they fucked up. All evidence past that point is not admissible. Fruit of a poison tree & all that.

    Because the police & DA couldn't follow the simple rules that they are supposed to, a thief & rapist is going to walk. We should be livid & LEOs should be getting fired because of this.

  • Re:WTF???? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:21PM (#46389859) Homepage

    Actually there is a law. The highest law. The 4th Amendment forbids general searches, which is the only thing this device enables.

    Secondly, they want to apply the third party doctrine, specifically, if you share info with a phone company they can just hoover it up. But none of the people whose cell phones were affected made an agreement to share information with the cops directly -- the cops in this situation are not a third party, they're "the man" in the middle.

  • by mschaffer ( 97223 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:35PM (#46389999)

    One can assume ONE of the following is true about the police department:
    1. They are completely ignorant of the laws and the Constitution that they have sworn to uphold
    2. They conspired to withhold information from the courts.

    Either way, I believe that credit should be given where credit is due.

  • Re:WTF???? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:58PM (#46390241)

    It takes time for someone to actually read the article.

      The first responses are usually based on the headline (if we're lucky), the next few made it through at least part of the summary. Some if may be insightful, some not...

    But its not until someone's actually read the article that any thing salient to the content of the article can get posted.

  • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:37PM (#46392967) Homepage

    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.

    You enjoy making arguments in court? On the court's schedule?

    That's basically true of any contract/etc. Does your car come with a warranty? It is only as good as the manufacturer's word, or your willingness to sue them and waste 5 years in court. Justice in the US is for sale to those with the means to afford it.

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken