Cell-site simulators are the devices that masquerade as a cell phone tower, trick your phone into connecting with them, and suck up your data. Whether they are in the hands of the government or malicious thieves, there’s no question that they’re a serious threat to privacy.
Community members and lawmakers are starting to question law enforcement and intelligence agencies about their use of these devices. The Subcommittee on Information Technology of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on “Examining Law Enforcement Use of Tracking Devices,” in October of 2015. The chair of that committee introduced legislation shortly after the hearing to limit the use of cell-site simulators.
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced that it would start requiring warrants for cell-site simulators. The Department of Homeland Security followed suit a month later. In addition, dozens of states have passed or are considering legislation that regulates law enforcement use of cell-site simulators.