Santa Clara County won’t get the secret cell phone spying technology Sheriff Laurie Smith has been pushing the last year. According to a memo released this week, the county said it couldn’t reach a contractual agreement with Harris Corp., the manufacturer of the controversial “stingray” device.
In February, the county Board of Supervisors signed off on the use of a $500,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for the technology.
In a Mercury News report on the decision to end negotiations, county Supervisor Joe Simitian said that he never once saw a demonstration of how the cell phone tracking technology would be used or documents on the device’s capabilities. Simitian, who voted against the acquisition of the technology, has repeatedly said he was not necessarily against the purchase of the device, but he felt it should happen after a thorough public vetting of how the cell phone trackers would be used.
Undersheriff John Hirokawa reportedly told the Merc that the Sheriff’s Office was disappointed that the contract fell through. He added, “Technology is advancing so rapidly that we’ll have to see what comes next. Maybe there will be something out there that would do the job but not raise the suspicions of those concerned.”
Those “suspicions” come from the fact that no one even knows how “stingray” technology works beyond law enforcement and the company that sells it. Government agencies are required to sign non-disclosure agreements to acquire the devices. This lack of sunshine has caused some criminal cases to be dropped, because of hesitancy to release information on the devices.