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Suit: CPD refused to turn over cell phone data collection records

A privacy activist is suing the Chicago Police Department after officials denied his Freedom of Information Act request seeking departmental records regarding cell phone data collection.

Southwest Side resident Freddy Martinez filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court. The suit claims the police department “has willfully and intentionally violated FOIA by refusing to produce records that would show the full extent to which it has secretly used ‘IMSI catcher’ or ‘stingray’ equipment.”

The pieces of equipment “masquerade” as cell phone towers to secretly obtain data from nearby cell phone users, according to a statement from Martinez’s attorneys.

A representative for the city’s Law Department could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

A previous FOIA request filed by Martinez revealed that the Chicago Police Department has owned IMSI equipment since 2008, the suit stated.

The city retained an outside law firm to “assist in responding” to Martinez’s most recent FOIA request. The firm, Drinker, Biddle and Reath, told Martinez that several exemptions applied to the records he requested, while never saying definitively that records even exist.

The Homeland Security Act and Arms Export Control Act were among the exemptions cited by the firm, the suit said.

Martinez is asking the court to declare that the police department has violated FOIA and order the department to turn over the records he is seeking.