Minneapolis, Minn. - It's not just the NSA spying on your cell phone. KARE 11 has learned that two Minnesota law enforcement agencies have the ability to do the same.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension have both purchased cellular exploitation devices that go by the names of KingFish of StingRay. The devices mimic a cell phone tower and allow the agencies to extract data from nearby cell phones.
"This entire phenomenon is shrouded in secrecy," said Chris Soghoian with the ACLU. "The vast majority of people whose
information is being collected are innocent of any crime. They're never
told their information was requested and they're never told their
information ended up in a government database."
KARE 11's findings were part of a nationwide investigation conducted by USA Today which found at least 25 local agencies across the country are using these devices.
Few are willing to talk about them or what happens to innocent people's data that is collected.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and BCA denied our requests for interviews.
Any information KARE 11 received, including a purchase order for the device, was obtained through requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act. Most of what we requested was denied on the basis that it would compromise investigative techniques.
"It just behooves me and it's arrogant kind of attitude of government," said Minnesota privacy advocate Rich Neumeister.
Neumeister plans to lobby the legislature to update it's decades-old privacy laws in the next session to require a warrant when using cellular exploitation devices.
"You've got to remember, information is power," said Neumeister. "And power unchecked, in the long run, can hurt us all."
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