The NSA's warrantless electronic surveillance of Americans has dominated headlines for months, thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, but what has not been publicized is how some police departments in the U.S. are doing the same thing.
The Erie County, N.Y. Sheriff's Department has been using a cellphone surveillance device called a "Stingray" to gather information on local residents.
According to My Fox NY, the Stingray pretends to be a cell tower and fools wireless devices into communicating with it. The Stingray can also seize data from cellphones when the devices are not being used.
Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard told local lawmakers last week that the Stingray has been used by his department since 2008, but only for tracking a person's movements.
Sheriff Howard claimed that lawmakers should not be allowed to decide how he can use the Stingray, but said the courts should make the call.
When asked by lawmakers the number of times his department has used the Stingray, Sheriff Howard refused to answer.
Sheriff Howard is not only stonewalling local lawmakers, but also residents of Erie County. His excuse? The same one the NSA often uses: The bad guys might figure out what we're doing.
"It's very clear to anyone using common sense the more we talk about this, the more we refresh the topic, the more we're cautioning people that we use the device… the more we're telling them about it, the more likely they are to avoid capture," Sheriff Howard told WGRZ. "So, I have made my last comment on cell phone tracking."
The U.S. department of Homeland Security has reportedly been buying Stingrays for local law enforcement across the nation.