Proposed bill takes on cellphone tracking

Legislation to enhance transparency for the use of technology

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo County, has introduced a bill that would require local governments to take public comment before implementing cellphone intercept technology, according to a Feb. 27 announcement.

The surveillance technology, commonly known as "Stingray," is used to determine whom a person is calling, when the call is made and where the call originated. In some cases, it can capture the content of a conversation.

"Under the right circumstances, cell phone intercept technology can be a useful tool to catch suspects," Hill's press release reads, but "these portable devices, which mimic a cell phone tower and are usually the size of a suitcase, have raised concerns because they can scoop up cell phone data from so many people at once, whether they are suspects or not.

At least 11 local governments have purchased the cellphone-tracking tool, including Alameda County, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento County, Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles, the City of San Diego and San Bernardino County, according to the press release. And on Feb. 24, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to allow the sheriff's office to purchase the surveillance technology for more than $500,000.

Current law does not guarantee a scheduled public meeting where community members can comment on the proposed resolution or ordinance before the surveillance technology is adopted.

Hill's bill, SB 741, also includes a "privacy and usage policy pertaining to when the technology may be employed, how the data is to be used, and how the data will be protected from unauthorized disclosure and disposed of once it is no longer needed," according to the announcement.

If the resolution or ordinance is approved, the bill requires the local agency to post the privacy and usage policy on its website.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


5 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 1:35 pm

I don’t really see how this bill achieves much in the way of insuring that these devices are used correctly, and according to any/all laws that might be in force today, or in the future.

Every one not engaged in criminal activity, or deriving their incomes from criminal activity, most assuredly want the police to catch the “bad guys” as quickly as possible. But we don’t want to give up even more of our privacy than we have—particularly with the Obama Admin going to great ends to capture “metadata” relating to our telephone, and use, and most likely much of our Internet use. To have local government now decide it has access to technology to insure that it can track anyone it wants for any reason it wants really makes it harder and harder to believe that we are living in a free country any more.

I’d like to see laws that require the police to identify the number of times that they used these devices. I’d like to know that there were court orders authorizing the use. I’d like to know that the data collected during the device’s use was not examined for any purpose other than in pursuit of the person(s) under investigation at the time. I’d like to see laws prohibiting the storage of this data not related to the actual investigation discarded very, very, quickly. I’d like to know that lawyers out on fishing expeditions will not have access to data about people locations—collected unintentionally by the police, and funded by the taxpayers.

At the moment, Democrat Jerry Hill’s bill doesn’t seem to address any of these concerns, and I’d like to know why Sen. Hill does not seem more interested in protecting our privacy.

3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Everybody by now knows about "six degrees of separation" theory. With the collection of enough data, anybody could be linked to any crime, in very few steps.

Sure, just because my license plate was recorded at an intersection where somebody made a cell-phone call to an apartment building where a neighbor had a business associate whose partner died under mysterious circumstances, doesn't prove anything, but can look awfully suspicious when presented by someone in authority with an interest in making me look guilty. Nah, would never happen in real life.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Palo Alto, rejoice. Mike's Cafe is back.
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 2,034 views

Premarital and Couples: Musings on Life
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,477 views

Why we are Warming
By Sherry Listgarten | 25 comments | 1,289 views

Cap On? Cap Off? The Cities Respond
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 1,128 views

The summer bucket list
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 851 views