From yesterday’s NYT:
WASHINGTON — In the first public accounting of its kind, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations.
The New York Times
This really drives me nuts. AT&T responds to 700 law enforcement requests for cell phone data EACH DAY! And while warrants are “usually” required - of those 700 requests, about 230 are considered “emergencies” (another way of saying the cop is either lazy and does not want to get a warrant, or does not have probable cause to actually get one) and are warrantless.
The Times continues
That is roughly triple the number it fielded in 2007, the company said. Law enforcement requests of all kinds have been rising among the other carriers as well, with annual increases of between 12 percent and 16 percent in the last five years. Sprint, which did not break down its figures in as much detail as other carriers, led all companies last year in reporting what amounted to at least 1,500 data requests on average a day.
With the rapid expansion of cell surveillance have come rising concerns — including among carriers — about what legal safeguards are in place to balance law enforcement agencies’ needs for quick data against the privacy rights of consumers.
Folks, our privacy is at risk - and it is time we do something about this. 1/3 of all of the requests just one carrier (AT&T) receives, are not court sanctioned. Privacy is not about having something to hide; privacy is about being free from government snooping of your daily business. U.S. v. Jones was decided this spring and dealt with the issue of warrantless GPS surveillance. Justice Sotomayor made a strong case for privacy in cell phone communications.
This issue can not get to the Court soon enough. The rule should be simple. No warrant, no data. But even then, the watered-down warrant requirements don’t leave me with a great deal of confidence, but I’ll still take a neutral magistrate being involved in the decision, then it just being the cop putting pressure on the carriers to turn over information. I am actually surprised that the carriers turn down 14% of requests.
PS - this only deals with police requests to the carriers, not police efforts to manipulate people into giving consent to let officers look at their phones. Piece of advice if you care about privacy: Use a lock screen, and just say no. It is your constitutional right.
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