News & Opinion » News

City Council greenlights GrayKey iPhone hacking tool for police

by

Rochester City Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized the Rochester Police Department to subscribe to an iPhone hacking tool over strenuous objections from some residents.

Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, speaking during an online meeting of the Council, said using the tool, GrayKey, would require police to secure a search warrant beforehand and that officers would only turn to the instrument when investigating serious felonies.

“Probable cause must exist,” Singletary said. “We want to use this technology to bring in those responsible for the most heinous crimes in Rochester.”

The Council approved a one-year subscription to GrayKey at a cost of $19,000. The tool is used by law enforcement agencies around the country, including the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
The vote followed a public forum in which several residents urged lawmakers to reject the legislation, citing privacy concerns and potential misuse.

“This technology is invasive and poses great security concerns,” resident Kristin Hocker told the Council.

Another speaker, Michael Scott, called the tool a threat to the Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches and seizures.

“At the very least, this issue requires much more more careful consideration,” Scott said.



Any warrant a judge signs for GrayKey would be limited to specific information related to a particular investigation, officials said. Mayor Lovely Warren said any information linking the phone’s owner to a different crime could not be used against them.

“The Police Department can only use this to look for very specific information,” Warren said. “Doing anything else would be fruit of the poisonous tree.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at gfanelli@rochester-citynews.com.