Privacy concerns over Sheriff’s cell tracking devices

Local News

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — Advocates for civil liberties and law enforcement are at odds over a debate about cell phone tracking technology; the right to privacy is being weighed against law enforcement’s right to investigate.

Attorneys for the New York Civil Liberties Union went before State Supreme Court Justice Patrick NeMoyer Thursday afternoon asking him to force the Erie County sheriff’s Office to reveal more details about how its investigators use cell phone tracking devices.

The Sheriff’s Department has owned a Stringray, and a Kingfish device for almost seven years. They are capable of not only tracking all cell phones in one area, but they also have the technology to listen in to many of those conversations.

Andrea Schillaci is the attorney representing the Sheriff’s Department. She says the department shouldn’t have to reveal law enforcement techniques. “There is a value in limiting the information that’s available about it to the general public, balancing the public’s right to know with the effectiveness of law enforcement,” Schillaci said.

NYCLU attorney, Mariko Hirose says that all she’s asking for is the most basic information, “What we want to know is what privacy protection, if any, the sheriff’s Department has put in place for the use of this device and we think this is basic information that the public has a right to know. This is tax payer funded equipment.”

Judge NeMoyer says he will consider both arguments and eventually issue a written decision.

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