Florida police have cell phone surveillance tech, report says

You may or may not have heard of a StingRay— it’s a controversial surveillance device that, by acting like a cell tower, can find your cell phone’s location and other info. Now photos of what's reportedly a related device called a Harpoon have surfaced and show it ostensibly in the posession of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Published by Vice Motherboard, a photo shows a stack of devices with what looks like the word “Harpoon” on them; a second photo reveals a label from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on the back of equipment.

What’s a Harpoon? A document posted by Ars Technica describes it as a “high-power filtered amplifier” that boosts the performance of the StingRay devices as well as another system called the KingFish.

A lawyer from The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who was shown the photos by Vice said that it was “consistent with what we know about how these devices are typically used,” according to Vice Motherboard, which acquired the photos and other documents via a leak. “They’re put inside a police vehicle and to anyone on the outside there would be no indication that the police are driving around with a powerful surveillance device.”


State or local police use StringRay-type tracking devices in 23 states across the country, from Washington and California to Pennsylvania and New York, according to a map published by the ACLU.

"FDLE does not discuss investigative tactics," Molly Best, a public information officer for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, told FoxNews.com by email in response to an inquiry on the topic.

The company connected with the Harpoon device is called Harris. "We are unable to comment for your story," Jim Burke, the director of global public relations at Harris Corporation, told FoxNews.com in an email.

This July, a United States district judge ruled to suppress evidence that authorities gathered after using a StringRay device— in that case, the Drug Enforcement Agency used a StingRay-type “cell-site simulator” to find a suspect’s New York City apartment.

Later, the DEA entered the apartment and found drug paraphernalia, but the judge deemed that that was an “unreasonable search” because of the use of the StingRay.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger