New Hampshire Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Warrants for Stingrays, Poising State to Join Illinois and Others in Stricter Regulation

Posted on June 15, 2017

According to a report by the Tenth Amendment Center, the New Hampshire House has just passed a bill which would closely regulate the deployment of stingray surveillance devices in the state, most notably by requiring law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before using them. The House vote follows approval of the bill by the state Senate last month, sending the bill to New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu’s desk to await final approval.

A stingray, also known as a cell-site simulator, is a device which mimics a cellular base station, forcing all cellular devices within range to connect to it, and thereby intercepting uniquely identifying subscriber information and any other data sent to or from the connected devices. The bill would tighten restrictions and procedures on how stingrays are used by requiring that New Hampshire state and local law enforcement agencies obtain a valid search warrant before using such devices to intercept either location data or other communication metadata. Additionally, the bill stipulates that the law enforcement agency deploying the device must immediately delete intercepted data and metadata belonging to anyone not named in the search warrant, and that they must also delete such information pertaining to individuals named in the warrant after 30 days if there is no longer an investigative reason for retaining it. 

Enactment of the bill would also help enshrine greater privacy on the federal level by reducing data accessible to federal law enforcement in their databases. Since the federal government populates some of its databases and search programs, such as the ISE or Information Sharing Environment, with data obtained from states, because New Hampshire would immediately delete all irrelevant data from its records under the bill, this would not be copied to federal databases, narrowing the margin for abuse or mismanagement. 

Should the bill be signed into law, New Hampshire would be added to a growing number of states requiring search warrants for stingray use, including California, Illinois, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. This is a significant stride in protecting the privacy of innocent parties from broad and invasive law enforcement techniques, as the nature of stingray devices means that their data will be unintentionally collected whenever they’re used. If the trend toward regulating stingrays on the state level continues, the restriction by states on the availability of citizens’ metadata to federal agencies may force these agencies to adopt more privacy-conscious policies, or even abandon their more aggressive law enforcement initiatives entirely. For instance, if enough states pass similar legislation into law, federal agencies like ICE would have a much harder time using stingrays to locate and deport undocumented immigrants, as a recent story in The Intercept shows to be a tactic in ICE’s arsenal

You can read the full story from the Tenth Amendment Center here.