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Privacy Government Technology

Santa Clara County Opts Against Buying Stingray Due To Excessive Secrecy 39

An anonymous reader writes: The Santa Clara County (California) Board of Supervisors voted in February to acquire a Stingray device for the sheriff's office. However, the subsequent negotiations with Harris Corp. required such a level of secrecy that the county announced that it will forego the $500,000 grant and not buy the device. In a memo released Wednesday, the County Executive's Office said "after lengthy negotiations regarding contract terms, including business and legal issues," an agreement could not be reached with the manufacturer, the Harris Corp. As a result, "the system will not be purchased at this time," and the work group focused on drafting a use policy will be disbanded.
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Santa Clara County Opts Against Buying Stingray Due To Excessive Secrecy

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  • Use your FOI powers and join the Transparency Toolkit.
  • What they mean is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @05:51AM (#49636463)

    After a number of high profile cases have been dropped due to prosecutors not being allowed to explain how the device works in court. It's become a very expensive evidence gathering tool which can't be used to collect usable evidence.

    This isn't a blow against secret terms of use, it's a business decision to not buy something which can't be used for it's intended purpose.

    • No Santa Clara county will just borrow one of the FBI units and not tell people it was used. You aren't being paranoid enough.

      Personally I am waiting for a really high profile case to be dropped because of it. Right now all you have to do is force the police to disclose how they tracked you and they start dropping cases.

      • Re:What they mean is (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Somebody Is Using My ( 985418 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @09:13AM (#49637475) Homepage

        No Santa Clara county will just borrow one of the FBI units and not tell people it was used.

        That is one of the first things I thought when I read the article too.

        The headline should probably be something more along the lines of "Santa Clara County Opts Against Buying Stingray... decides on competing RingStay brand."

        Because these toys are too useful and make data-collection far far too easy for them to give it up. They'll use some other brand, or a device that works similarly (but not exactly) like Stingrays, or hire outside agencies (who /do/ purchase Stingrays) to do the call-interception for them, but you can be sure that ultimately there won't be any real improvement.

        Instead they will pass on half-truths to placate the public whom they are supposed to serve to hide the fact they are continuing the behavior we find upsetting.

        And then wonder why public trust in them continues to decline.

    • After a number of high profile cases have been dropped due to prosecutors not being allowed to explain how the device works in court. It's become a very expensive evidence gathering tool which can't be used to collect usable evidence.

      This isn't a blow against secret terms of use, it's a business decision to not buy something which can't be used for it's intended purpose.

      Are you certain dragging innocent citizens into a courtroom and milking them for thousands to fleece the pockets of various members of the legal community isn't in fact the intended purpose?

      It's become a very expensive evidence gathering tool that also happens to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the legal system, legal or otherwise. So far this county seemingly doesn't want to play along, but I question the other 99% of the country that has no qualms using it.

    • by v1 ( 525388 )

      privacy issues aside, it's refreshing to occasionally see any government group not rubberstamp any expense that they don't have to worry about paying for. "We can't use this, we're not going to buy it." "but, but... it's so SHINY!"

      So now I think we're up to something like... Common Sense: 5 - SNAFU: 885,236

      Grant or no grant, that money doesn't just get tossed in a fire if it's not spent. It'll get repurposed somehow, somewhere, maybe by someone else but for public benefit, and hopefully into something

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is news, when the government does the right thing.

    • It is news, when the government does the right thing.

      Even stranger times when citizens believe them.

      Let's just say this particular organization has become infamous for saying one thing, and doing another.

  • baby better come back later next week
  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @06:12AM (#49636525) Journal
    Much of Santa Clara County is in the City of San Jose. What do you want to bet that San Jose has at least one?
  • If companies act like evil fucks, customers will go elsewhere.</sarcasm>
  • I have video evidence from the 80s that this town's bureaucrats and law enforcement organizations are controlled by an undead motorcycle gang. This move is obviously meant to manipulate the emotions of their human herd as to engender positive emotions meant to attract more visitors and residents, therefore increasing their food supply.

    Oh, wait...

  • There are cut-away plans on the web [ed.ac.uk]
  • What hardware could be worth that amount?

    Must be a pretty big mark-up.

    • What hardware could be worth that amount?

      Must be a pretty big mark-up.

      Who said government customers give a shit about what that price is? It's not their money.

      And of course there's huge mark-up. That's because Harris knows damn well what kind of legal revenue can be generated from one of these things. I wouldn't be surprised if the ROI on this is less than 6 months.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Next gen, no drop to older networking standards. Data out, voice out, mapping playback :)
    • Smoke and mirrors. It's a fancy butt-set with nmap strapped onto it! Harris is not in possession of anything magical, it's just a bunch of lawyers surrounding what in essence is a jumped-up Sniffer, but if that "secret" got out, who the hell would buy it then?

    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      it's $68,479 for the original Stingray and $134,952 for Stingray II. Granted that does not include everything else required, https://publicintelligence.net... [publicintelligence.net] shows a nice price list for the accessories.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    1. Deny that you are buying stingray.
    2. Buy stingray.
    3. Use stingray to track innocent people.
    4. Profit.

  • Is all the damn vampires.

    Okay, okay, actually that was the fictional town of Santa Carla, but that's a mere anagram away.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt00... [imdb.com]

  • Harris isn't the only vendor. And there are other IMSI catchers [wikipedia.org] available. Some may have different and more user friendly NDAs attached to their sale.

  • So how do Stingray users get around the FCC transmitter license?

  • by crazyvas ( 853396 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @03:22PM (#49641465)

    Thanks editors, for explaining it.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/cri... [mercurynews.com]

    From the link above:
    The technology in question [...] is a suitcase-sized device that mimics a cellphone tower to connect with all phones in a specific area. [...] Sheriff's officials said it will be used purely to locate the subject of an investigation since it can find a phone through walls, even if the owner isn't making a call.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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