Lawmaker calls for hearings over cell-spying technology

MINNEAPOLIS - Rep. John Lesch will call for hearings regarding local law enforcement's use of cell-spying technology.

The oversight comes on the heels of a KARE 11 investigation which found the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension both have used court orders to access cellular data in pursuit of suspects.

"The public has a right to know the details of what parts of our lives they're examining," says Lesch.

The agencies use a tactic known as a "tower dump," which gives police data about the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to the targeted cellphone towers over a set span of time, usually an hour or two. A typical dump covers multiple towers and wireless providers. It can net information from thousands of phones.

"Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do something," says Chuck Samuelson with the Minnesota ACLU. "We believe it's unconstitutional to simply sweep up everybody who they believe is in a neighborhood where this one no-good neck lives."

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and BCA have also acquired devices that act as a fake cell tower. The system goes by the names Stingray or Kingfish. It is typically installed in a vehicle so it can be moved into any neighborhood and tricks all nearby phones into connecting to it and feeding data to police.

"It's absolutely a potential concern in any situation where the government is getting information on you without a warrant," says Lesch.

Lesch plans to hold the hearings in late January.


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