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State Laws Start Catching Up to Police Phone Spying

Police don't want to talk about how they use Stingrays, and now the spying devices face a wave of state-level restrictions
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Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

American law enforcement has fallen in love with the Stingray, a type of gadget that impersonates cellphone towers in order to gather information from people’s mobile devices. The small devices can be driven around in trucks, attached to police officers' bodies, and even strapped to the bottom of planes and flown near people of interest. 

Some state lawmakers seem distinctly less charmed by Stingrays, which are also called cell site simulators. On Monday, for example, legislators in Washington State voted a bill out of a Senate committee that would put restrictions on their use. The bill already passed the state House unanimously. If signed into law, it would become the strongest state limits on the books covering these cellphone interceptors.