On Monday, Congressman Ed Markey, in the first-ever accounting of its kind, has found that in 2011, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies made more than 1.3 million requests of wireless carriers for the cell phone records of consumers, and that number is increasing every year.
- Sprint received 500,000 subpoenas for its data from law enforcement in the last year. That doesn’t include court orders for wiretaps and location data, which Sprint didn’t track annually but which added up to 325,982 requests in the last five years. The company also says it doesn’t have the resources to track how many of those requests it responded to or rejected. The company has 221 employees dedicated to processing and responding to government requests for its data.
- Verizon received 260,000 requests for its users data in 2011, including wiretaps, calling records, text message information, and location information, but doesn’t add how many were fulfilled.
- AT&T received 131,400 subpoenas in criminal cases for its information in 2011, as well as 49,700 warrants or orders that it hand over data. It rejected 965 of them. The company says it employees more than 100 staffers full-time to respond to law enforcement demands.
- T-Mobile told Congressman Markey it “does not disclose” the number of law enforcement requests it receives or complies with.
The number of data requests is growing quickly, reports the NY Times. The major carriers say law enforcement demands have risen 12-16% year-over-year.
Markey’s request for this information followed a groundbreaking report by the American Civil Liberties Union based on Freedom of Information Act requests to police departments around the country for evidence of their policies on data requests to phone carriers.
The information revealed Monday includes “tower dumps,” too, says Chris Calebrese, an attorney with the ACLU. “Just the sheer volume of orders is amazing, but a significant chunk are dumps from entire cell towers,” he says. “That means tons of people’s information is being grabbed with a single one of these orders.”
Some police departments obtain all of the cell phone numbers that used a particular cell tower. Other police want all the mobile phone numbers that called a particular cell phone. Still other agencies want everything that can be gleaned from a smartphone, including the owner’s GPS coordinates.
Pen-Link, among others, provides Law Enforcement and Intelligence agencies with software and systems for the collection, storage, and analysis of telephone communications.