Twelve senators have asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate complaints against the state and local law enforcement agencies’ use of surveillance devices that simulate cellphone towers to gather cellphone identification and location information.
Some complaints filed with FCC alleged that cell-site simulators disrupt consumers’ cellular service, can potentially interfere with emergency communications including 911 calls and are used more frequently in minority neighborhoods, the senators said Thursday in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
The lawmakers added that reports also claimed that law enforcement agencies do not have required licenses to operate Stingray devices over wireless spectrum.
They told FCC to provide information on Stingray and HailStorm devices’ transmission range as well as the size of their interference area if these devices disrupt mobile communications.
The senators inquired whether law enforcement agencies need authorization from FCC to operate over licensed spectrum and whether FCC has related oversight procedures in place.
FCC should also disclose whether cell site simulators have been tested in a real world setting; which law enforcement agencies own cell site simulators; and what measures police departments take to minimize the impact of Stingray devices on consumers, the letter stated.
Senators also asked FCC to explain why equipment authorization granted to Stingray manufacturers require law enforcement officials to sign non-disclosure agreements.
The letter was signed by Sens. Al Franken, Patrick Leahy, Ron Wyden, Sherrod Brown, Edward Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Jeffrey Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, Bernard Sanders, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Christopher Coons.