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The Coming Storm Over 'Stingray' Surveillance by Police

The technology is being deployed in secret by departments across the country, according to a recent investigative report.
This undated handout photo shows the StingRay II, a cellular site simulator used for surveillance purposes.
This undated handout photo shows the StingRay II, a cellular site simulator used for surveillance purposes.AP Photo/U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

The storm trooper-level police response to protests in Ferguson last summer shocked many observers, and put a federal program that distributes surplus military weapons and equipment to local law enforcement under heavy scrutiny. But the creep of War on Terror technology into domestic police surveillance tactics, and the Orwellian legal bases upon which it stands, has been more subtle.

One little understood tool is known as "stingray," a device that can locate a phone's location by posing as a cell tower. The system is good at tracking down criminal suspects but also intercepts the location of people who happen to be in the area.