'Detroit police purchased surveillance technology that allows police to actively track people’s locations through their cell phones, according to documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
In October 2017, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) obtained a cell-site simulator, which is a type of surveillance technology that locates and tracks phones by mimicking cell phone towers. Also known as IMSI catchers and Stingrays (a specific model of cell-site simulator made by Harris Corporation), cell-site simulators are increasingly used by law enforcement to locate suspects in investigations across the country.
The technology was purchased for $622,000 from KeyW Corporation in 2016, but DPD did not take possession of the equipment until the fall of 2017.
DPD’s cell-site simulator was deployed at least 66 times between January 1, 2018, and October 31, 2018.
Cell-site simulators allow police to collect the cellphone location information of anyone in the vicinity of the device. This is not limited to the targets of police investigations and includes passersby suspected of no wrongdoing.
Such dragnet surveillance has sparked widespread concern from civil liberties groups across the country. They argue cell-site simulators can be used to circumvent constitutional rights to privacy under the Fourth Amendment.
While some cities recently enacted legislation requiring police departments to inform the public and even gain approval from city council before obtaining new surveillance technologies, Detroit has no such policy in place.
Shelli Weisberg, political director at the ACLU of Michigan, believes the ability of law enforcement agencies like DPD to unilaterally acquire surveillance technology without public knowledge or approval is a huge problem.
“The fact that no public input is mandated is really problematic,” Weisberg said. “Having a privacy ordinance like that would be beneficial in Michigan.”
Additionally, a non-disclosure agreement between the City of Detroit and KeyW shows Detroit must notify the company of records requests pertaining to its work “immediately,” so that it can seek to block their disclosure.'
Read more: Detroit Police Spent More Than Half Million Dollars On Cell-Site Simulator to Track People's Locations
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17 June 2019
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