San Bernardino Sheriff's Dept. Sued Over Cell Phone Tracking Records

A digital privacy advocacy group is suing the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in an effort to obtain more information about its use of a controversial cell phone tracking system.

The suit was filed on Tuesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The sheriff’s department has rejected the group’s request for warrant applications related to its use of stingray cell-stimulator devices.

“EFF seeks the records to investigate whether California law enforcement agencies are complying with the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA),” according to the group’s press release. "The law, co-sponsored by EFF and passed in 2015, protects Californians’ personal information by requiring police to obtain a warrant to access people’s digital records—such as emails and geographic location information stored on devices or in the cloud—and notify those whose records are being sought. Police can only bypass the warrant requirement under CalECPA if the records’ owner consents to the search or the records are needed in a life-or-death emergency.”

According to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, San Bernardino’s law enforcement agencies lead the state in per capita electronic warrants granted for digital surveillance. Ars Technica reports that San Bernardino County also used the devices without a warrant 303 times between January 1, 2014 and May 7, 2015.

Click here to read a copy of the lawsuit filed Tuesday.