The StingRay Is The Virtually Unknown Device The US Government Uses To Track People Through Their Phones

There's a battle going on in the US judicial system over how much freedom the government should have in tracking the country's citizens. At the centre of this debate lies a device called the StingRay.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the StingRay is a tracking device which is used to locate and follow anyone based on their mobile phone signal.

A stingray works by mimicking a mobile phone tower, getting a phone to connect to it and measuring signals from the phone. It lets the stingray operator "ping", or send a signal to, a phone and locate it as long as it is powered on, according to documents reviewed by the Journal. The device has various uses, including helping police locate suspects and aiding search-and-rescue teams in finding people lost in remote areas or buried in rubble after an accident.

The device was most recently used to arrest a hacker by the name of Daniel David Rigmaiden, who is now demanding to see what data the machine collected (and how it collected it), to use for his defence. Harris, who only sells their tracking products to federal agencies, are ghosts on the internet. Apparently law enforcement clears out their data logs in an attempt to keep the technologies inner workings a secret (few know how it does what it does).

Privacy laws, such as banning mobile phone searches without a warrant, are being passed in state congress halls across the United States. But little has been said about the dark art of tracking and surveillance. And not to say that this practice isn't sometimes justified, but if US citizens are being subjected to such draconian manoeuvres without their knowing, they should at least know how it's being done, right? [WSJ]

Image: WSJ/US Patent and Trademark Office