FCC Helped Create the Stingray Problem, Now it Needs to Fix It

It is long overdue for the FCC to address Stingrays’ impact on speech, interference with 911 calls, and invasion of privacy.

EFF recently joined with the American Civil Liberties Union in a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of a complaint filed against the Baltimore Police Department for illegal usage of a surveillance technology, often called “Stingray,” that spies on our cell phones by simulating a cellular tower. A dozen U.S. Senators led by Senators Franken, Leahy, and Wyden have also recently weighed in with the FCC on the need to investigate the issue along with any disproportionate impacts on communities of color who are more dependent on wireless broadband as their only means to communicate. We think the time has come for FCC action as the grave problems of harmful communications interference, disrupted access to emergency 911 services, and invasions of privacy reach beyond just Baltimore and require a national solution. The airwaves are public property and belong to all of us and the FCC manages those airwaves on behalf of the public.

What is the FCC’s Role in Addressing the Issues?

Federal law mandates that every commercial device that emits or transmits electromagnetic signals must be approved by the FCC. From the iPhone to your common router, the FCC has reviewed and approved every wireless commercial product in the United States in order to ensure that the airwaves remain usable by avoiding interference that would make transmitting a clear signal impossible. While this may seem fairly top down, it has prevented many instances of harmful interference