Law Enforcement Demands Cell Phone Details from Telecoms more than 3,500 Times a Day
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
In between routing calls and text messages, telecom companies spend considerable time each day handling demands from law enforcement seeking phone and other records of customers.
In fact, businesses like AT&T and Sprint collectively received more than 3,500 requests a day from federal, state and local authorities seeking to pry into the private communications of Americans.
Last year alone, cell phone carriers dealt with at least 1.3 million demands for subscriber information from law enforcement agencies. Sprint led all companies in reporting requests that averaged 1,500 a day.
The demands are still coming in this year. AT&T gets an average of more than 700 requests a day.
In the words of Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times, “law enforcement officials are shifting away from wiretaps in favor of other forms of cell tracking that are generally less legally burdensome, less time consuming and less costly,” such as requesting all data from a specific cell phone tower.
Representative Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) was responsible for this news coming to light, after his office asked telecom companies to reveal how often police are snooping around for electronic communications data. “I never expected it to be this massive,” Markey told The New York Times.
Although exact figures are not available, it is thought that only a small percentage of the data requests deal with national security, whereas a large number concern presumed drug-related offenses and other common crimes.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
More Demands on Cell Carriers in Surveillance (by Eric Lichtblau, New York Times)
1.3M Cellphone Snooping Requests Yearly? It’s Time for Privacy and Transparency Laws (by David Kravets, Wired)
Letters to Mobile Carriers Reagrding Use of Cell Phone Tracking by Law Enforcement (Congressman Ed Markey)
Senators Propose Ending Telecom Spying Immunity (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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