“A Florida judge has sided with the ACLU to order release of information about police use of “stingrays,” which are invasive surveillance devices that send out powerful signals to trick cell phones into transmitting their locations and identifying information. The Tallahassee judge’s pro-transparency decision stands in contrast to extreme secrecy surrounding stingray records in another Florida court, which is at the center of an emergency motion filed by the ACLU today. The ACLU learned several months ago about a case where Tallahassee police used a stingray to track a phone to a suspect’s apartment without getting a warrant. Although the detective responsible for the tracking testified in court about using a stingray, in deference to the government’s demand for secrecy the court closed the hearing to the public and sealed the transcript. The ACLU filed a motion asking the judge to unseal the transcript, citing the public’s First Amendment right of access to court proceedings. In response, the government tried to justify continued secrecy by invoking the federal Homeland Security Act and other federal laws. As the ACLU explained to the court, those laws have no bearing because this case involves state judicial records, and because the government has waived its ability to invoke broad secrecy arguments by already releasing significant information about its use of stingrays. Late yesterday, the judge ordered unsealing of the entire transcript. The portion that the government had sought to keep secret is here. It confirms key information about the invasiveness of stingray technology…”
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