The San Diego Police Department is being sued by a civil rights organization over the possible use of dragnet-capable ‘Stingray’ cellphone surveillance technology that has given national police observers pause for its widespread tracking capabilities.
San Diego police have long chosen to withhold details about whether it uses an International Mobile Subscriber Identity catcher (IMSI), which emulates the functionality of a cell phone tower in order to interact with a nearby mobile phone. Commonly known as Stingrays, a popular brand name, they can be used to capture and intercept the contents of communications, including calls, text messages, or internet activity. Many IMSI catchers are used in dragnet fashion, scooping up information about every phone in range.
The First Amendment Coalition presented in the lawsuit a heavily-redacted invoice provided by the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) that confirmed $33,000 was spent to acquire or use IMSI-catching technology, yet SDPD will not provide further information to the group or news organizations, according to the Union-Tribune of San Diego.