For Immediate Release
Civil Rights Group Condemns NYPD’s Warrantless Use of Military Grade Cell Phone Surveillance Devices and Demands FCC Action
NEW YORK, NY. - ColorOfChange, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, is condemning the New York Police Department’s more than 1,000 warrantless uses of the controversial cell phone surveillance device known as Stingrays.
In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union the NYPD revealed its staggering use of Stingrays and also disclosed that despite widespread use of the surveillance device it has no written policy for its use.
Stingrays allow police to track, jam, listen in on, and monitor the cell phone activity of anyone and everyone within range whether or not someone is the intended target. Stingray devices are used by law enforcement in nearly every state and have repeatedly been used without warrants while federal agencies like the FBI and U.S. Marshals have actively prevented data around Stingray use from being disclosed, even under court order.
These devices have frequently been used to monitor protesters involved in the movement for Black lives. In 2014, after a lawsuit was filed with the Chicago Police Department it was revealed that police had been using Stingray devices to monitor the organizers of the Eric Garner protests. In 2015, Freedom of Information Act documents revealed that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies had been using similar surveillance devices to monitor the protest activities of activists in Baltimore and Ferguson. ColorOfChange and civil liberties groups are growing increasingly concerned that the secretive and warrantless use of these devices is a continuation of historical surveillance practices such as COINTELPRO meant as a form of social control and for chilling of the First Amendment rights of those organizing Black-led movements.
Statement from Color Of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson:
“The NYPD’s warrantless and reckless use of this invasive surveillance technology is completely unacceptable. We know all too well that unrestricted surveillance power gets disproportionately used against Black communities.
“In light of the NYPD's illegal use of this surveillance technology and their long history of surveilling Black communities, we are calling on Chairman Tom Wheeler and the FCC to use their authority over Stringray devices to suspend the warrantless use of these devices and require all law enforcement agencies looking to certify their devices to provide detailed and public policies for their use.”
With more than 850,000 members, ColorOfChange.org is the nation’s largest online civil rights organization.