Amsterdam News Staff

The New York Civil Liberties Union’s battle with the New York Police Department over StingRay devices continues.

Last week, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit against the NYPD after the department refused to reveal information about its acquisition of StingRay devices that the NYCLU deems important to the public.

“The NYPD must come clean about what models of StingRays it owns and how it acquires them,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose in a statement. “This is military-grade technology with the potential to implicate the privacy of countless innocent New Yorkers. There’s no good reason why this basic information—like how much it spends on what models of StingRays—is not in the public domain.”

StingRay devices are surveillance devices authorities use to spy on cell phones in a neighborhood by mimicking a cell tower. The device lets police pinpoint a person’s location and potentially collect the numbers of everyone that person has texted and called. Even when the police target a specific phone with a StingRay device, the information of nearby cell phones could still be picked up.

In February, the AmNews reported the NYCLU’s revelation that the NYPD spied on individuals’ cell phones 1,016 times between 2008 and May 2015, without a written policy and only having obtained lower-court orders and not warrants. The findings were the result of the NYCLU’s Freedom of Information Law request, which they made public. Despite said request, the NYPD refused to provide information about how it funds the acquisition of StingRay devices, how much taxpayer money is spent on them and what models it purchases.

The NYCLU’s lawsuit is part of the organization’s advocacy to unmask how the NYPD uses surveillance equipment such as StingRay devices and X-ray vans, equipment developed for military purposes now used in city neighborhoods.