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.