Cell Phone Spying: Which Local Police Are Doing It

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Some local law enforcement agencies refuse to say if they are spying on your cell phones, while some others acknowledge it is happening.

For months, 2 On Your Side, USA TODAY, and our partner television stations and newspapers across the country have been looking into cell phone spying. Earlier this month, we reported that the Erie County District Attorney and Buffalo Police acknowledged they have done so-called "tower dumps", where they request cell phone information from cell phone companies in order to catch criminals.

2 On Your Side reached out to other law enforcement agencies, and some have since responded.

Niagara County District Attorney Michael Violante refused to say answer any of our questions, saying he is "not able to discuss the methods we and law enforcement use in criminal investigations." Despite multiple attempts, the elected official would not comment further.

Some agencies also use so-called Stingrays, which are devices that mimic a tower, fooling a cell phone into sending the device your information. Thousands of innocent people could have their location given to police without a warrant.

Buffalo Police responded to our Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for any information on Stingrays to say they have never owned or leased such a device.

The same is true for the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.

But the Erie County Sheriff's Office, headed up by Sheriff Tim Howard, refused to respond to our request, saying it "would interfere with law enforcement investigations and/or reveal criminal investigative techniques or procedures."

State Police also responded to say they are considering our request for information on Stingray devices. They have 20 business days to respond, according to state law.


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