NYPD defends using of cell tracking technology more than 1,000 times since 2008

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NEW YORK — The New York Police Department is defending its use of secretive cellphone tracking technology after a new report revealed the department has used that technology more than 1,000 times since 2008.

According to data released by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NYPD has used cellphone tracking technology more than 1,000 times since 2008.

A cell-site simulator, called Stingray, can sweep up basic cellphone data by tricking phones in the area to believe that it's a cell tower, allowing it to identify unique subscriber numbers, the Associated Press reports. The data is then transmitted to police, helping them determine the location of a phone without the user making a call or sending a text message.

Federal guidelines adopted in September require a warrant be routinely obtained to use the technology. The rules don't apply to local law enforcement.

The NYPD did not deny its use of Stingray tracking technology. In fact, it defended its action Thursday in a statement:

In rare instances, the NYPD may use this technology in emergency situations while we seek judicial approval. This would be in instances where the life or safety of someone at risk. The NYCLU maligned that the policy of New Yorkers is at risk. It is not. What is at risk is the safety of New Yorkers, without the limited use of this technology to locate dangerous fugitives.

The NYPD said it has no written policy for its use and that it only uses Stingray tracking technology when it has permission from a judge.

Police records show the technology helped catch individuals wanted in kidnappings, rapes and murders.