The devices simulate a cell tower, forcing phones in the nearby area to connect, enabling the stripping of metadata. They are used by at least 13 federal agencies – including the FBI, DEA and IRS – and dozens of local and state police departments across the country.
Local police were forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI before using Stingrays, which mandated local prosecutors to throw cases in some instances rather than reveal that they used the devices.
Last week, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the House oversight committee, sent a bipartisan letter to IRS commissioner John Koskinen demanding documents detailing the agency’s guidelines, policies and use of the devices, the Guardian reported.
Lawmakers in the Senate are also investigating the IRS over its use of the device, and asking similar questions of Koskinen.
On Monday, Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, introduced a bill to the House floor which would make it illegal for Stingray technology to be deployed without a warrant by either local, state or federal agencies. The warrant is a much higher bar than the easily attainable court order currently required.
The new law would also force prosecutors and investigators to disclose to judges that the specific technology they plan to use is a stingray, as opposed to some other surveillance tool.
The bill, called the Stingray Privacy Act, or Cell-Site Simulator Privacy Act, makes warrantless use of the devices punishable by a fine or up to 10 years in prison.