Menu
IRS says it will get a warrant before using cell-site simulators

IRS says it will get a warrant before using cell-site simulators

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have also restricted the use of the technology without a warrant

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is drafting a policy to restrict the use without a warrant of cell-site simulator technology to snoop on the location and other information from mobile phones.

The head of the IRS, John Koskinen, wrote in a letter that the agency was drafting a policy that would mirror an earlier Department of Justice rule,  which requires a search warrant supported by probable cause before using the technology,  except in exigent or exceptional circumstances.

Cell-site simulators, also referred to as stingrays or 'IMSI catchers,' track the location and other information from mobile phones by mimicking cellphone towers. The use of the technology without a warrant by law enforcement has been criticized by civil rights groups.

The Criminal Investigation division of the IRS first deployed the cell-site simulator in 2012, according to Koskinen's letter to Senator Ron Wyden. Since then the IRS-IC tracked 37 cellular devices in support of 11 federal grand jury investigations. The investigations were led by the U.S. Attorney's Office, which provided guidance in obtaining necessary authorizations, including court orders and tracking warrants, Koskinen wrote. The IRS also used the device in four other investigations that required the tracking of seven cellular devices.

The IRS commissioner said that the new policy would be issued by Monday. It wasn't immediately clear if the policy is now in effect.

DOJ said in September that its agents would have to obtain a search warrant supported by probable cause before using a cell-site simulator, with some exceptions. Under the DOJ policy, old and irrelevant data would also have to be deleted. It also prohibits the use of cell-site simulators to collect the contents of any communication in the course of criminal investigations. 

The Department of Homeland Security also announced a similar warrant requirement and data retention policy for the use of stingrays.

Koskinen wrote to Wyden that the IRS has not used the cellphone tracking technology after DOJ announced its policy, and had placed a hold on its use until the new IRS policy is issued.

New legislation, called the Cell-Site Simulator Act of 2015, was introduced in the House of Representatives last month, with the aim of prohibiting federal, state and local government agencies from using stingrays without a warrant.

Working from press reports and publicly available documents, the American Civil Liberties Union identified on a map 57 agencies in 22 states and the District of Columbia that have stingray technology. It warned that the map could underrepresent the deployment of stingray because of the secrecy surrounding its purchase and use.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Brand Post

What to expect from your IT Distributor

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been around since before the dot com rollercoaster, choosing the right distribution partner can be a pivotal factor in your success. This definitive guide outlines the traits that every IT partner needs to look for in their IT Distributor.

Featured

Slideshows

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

This year’s Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards were held as an integral part of the first entirely virtual Emerging Leaders​ forum, an annual event dedicated to identifying, educating and showcasing the New Zealand technology market’s rising stars. The 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 recognised the outstanding achievements and business excellence of 30 talented individuals​, across both young leaders and those just starting out. In this slideshow, Reseller News honours this year's winners and captures their thoughts about how their ideas of leadership have changed over time.​

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners
Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security

Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security

This exclusive Reseller News Exchange event in Auckland explored the challenges facing the partner community on the cloud security frontier, as well as market trends, customer priorities and how the channel can capitalise on the opportunities available. In association with Arrow, Bitdefender, Exclusive Networks, Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security
Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2019 inductees - Leanne Buer, Ross Jenkins and Terry Dunn - to the fourth running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing face of the IT channel ecosystem in New Zealand and what it means to be a Reseller News Hall of Fame inductee. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch
Show Comments