The Chicago Police Department is fighting to keep a lid on how, when and where officers have used covert cellphone tracking systems — with an outside law firm billing the city more than $120,000 to battle a lawsuit that seeks those secret details.
Since 2005, the department has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on cell-site simulators manufactured by the Harris Corp. in Melbourne, Florida, records show. The devices — with names like StingRay and KingFish — capture cellphone signals.
Cops can use the technology, originally developed for the military, to locate cellphones. Police agencies in other states have revealed in court that StingRays and similar devices have been used to locate suspects, fugitives and victims in criminal investigations.
But privacy activists across the country have begun to question whether law enforcement agencies have used the devices to track people involved in demonstrations in violation of their constitutional rights.