ACLU demands transparency on police surveillance gear


On February 26, 2016, we filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to demand greater transparency regarding the Delaware State Police’s use of surveillance technology.

Months earlier, we had learned through our client Jonathan Rudenberg’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that the State Police had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase devices that spy on cell phones. Known as a “Stingray,” the police gadget pretends to be a cell tower, deceiving cell phones into contacting it and capturing the location of the phones, and potentially other information. The technology takes the data from the phones of everyone who happens to be in the area where the device is used. Because this technology is so invasive, the federal government has required that law enforcement agents obtain a search warrant before using a Stingray. Courts across the country have agreed that a warrant is required.

Stingray TechnologyThe documents we obtained from the initial request reveal the purchase of the devices as well as the nondisclosure agreement that the State Police entered with the FBI to keep the technology secret. But much was left out of the records we were provided. The State Police claimed not to have any rules or policies governing the use of Stingrays. We did not learn if they are applying for warrants for Stingray use, or what judges were being told about the technology. We also did not learn what is done with third party data gathered by the devices. Finally, we learned very little about the no-bid purchasing process that allowed the State Police to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the devices.

We filed this lawsuit to learn more. We want to end the stonewalling over basic information concerning the use of Stingrays. Delaware citizens have a right to know if the State Police are using this technology responsibly. The Court held oral argument on February 27, 2017. We will continue to push for disclosure until we can ensure that Delawareans’ rights are protected.

Take Action

Nondisclosure Agreement
Purchase Orders
Notice of appeal
ACLU opening brief (exhibits, compendium)
DSP answering brief
ACLU reply brief
ACLU supplemental brief
DSP supplemental brief
ACLU supplemental reply brief

News Journal front-page story on Stingrays
News Journal secondary article
News Journal editorial
Associated Press story on DOJ Statement of Interest
News Journal story on DOJ Statement of Interest
NBC10 segment

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