ALBANY, N.Y. (June 16, 2016) – A New York Assembly committee has passed an electronic data protection bill that would end warrantless collection of cell phone data and ban the use “stingrays” to track the location of phones and sweep up electronic communications without a warrant in most situations. Passage of the bill would not only protect privacy in New York, but would also hinder at least two aspects of the federal surveillance state.
A coalition of 13 assembly members introduced Assembly Bill 9235 (A9235) on Feb 4. The legislation would help block the use of cell site simulators, known as “stingrays.” These devices essentially spoof cell phone towers, tricking any device within range into connecting to the stingray instead of the tower, allowing law enforcement to sweep up communications content, as well as locate and track the person in possession of a specific phone or other electronic device.
The bill would require police to obtain a warrant before deploying a stingray device, unless they have the explicit permission of the owner or authorized possessor of the device.
A9235 would also bar law enforcement agencies from compelling third party communication companies to release mobile device information without a warrant. This would include actual communication content such as phone conversations, text messages and email, location information and other metadata such as identifying information.
The Assembly Codes Committee approved A9235 and referred it to the Rules Committee, where it will have to pass before moving on to the full Assembly.