Last year US law enforcement agencies made more than 1,3 million requests for the phone records of mobile phone carriers’ customers. Moreover, those requests are growing more and more, according to information collected as part of an inquiry made by Congress into mobile phone surveillance. Data from nine wireless carriers were released by Representative Edward Markey on Monday. It reveals the number of all requests for mobile phone records made in 2011. Both law enforcement agencies and companies are not required to report any of those requests, making the process of inquiry and data release from those companies the first law enforcement mobile phone surveillance public accounting.
Last month Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey sent letters to 9 wireless carriers where he asked for data on the volume and scale of those requests after report of The New York Times about mobile phone tracking became an ordinary practice for police departments with slight or no control at all in April. The companies which responded to the inquiry of Markey are: U.S. Cellular, TracFone, Cricket Communications Inc, C Spire Wireless, MetroPCS Communications Inc, T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel Corp, AT&T Inc, and Verizon Wireless.
According to the gathered data, No. 1 US carrier Verizon Wireless had the data spike in surveillance requests of nearly 15% every year for the last 5 years, with approximately 260000 requests over the last year. T-Mobile USA, the No. 4 carrier, reported they had a 12% to 16% annual increase, but it didn’t provide the exact number of surveillance requests it received every year. “We cannot allow innocent customers to become the victims of the sweeping force of information requests that sweeps away privacy protections,” said Markey, who is also a senior member of Energy and Commerce Committee of the House. “In a search of the needle inside the haystack law enforcement agencies doing many things which might hurt that haystack, and very badly,” he added.
The companies claimed that they have special teams to work with surveillance requests, and also that they only release any data when ordered by official subpoena or if superiors of law enforcement agencies confirm there is a real emergency situation with existing death threat or at least serious physical injury danger for any person. Tech industry trade group Computer and Communications Industry Association said it was worried that the growing governmental demand for user data was coming not so much from warrants which require the approval of the judge as from subpoenas without any oversight.
The group of companies including Microsoft Corp, Sprint Nextel, Facebook Inc and Google Inc asked lawmakers to overhaul the famous Electronic Communications Privacy Act to make online content, mobile data and location information fully warrant protected. “There is less reasons for the government to go through the long process of getting a warrant for wiretapping because access to any our wireless information gets easier to be obtained by them, and we also move to using modern communications methods which do not involve voice use such as e-mails and text messages,” Ross Schulman, the CCIA attorney, said in the blog post.
AT&T wrote a letter and stated that 0.25% of their wireless service subscribers were affected by surveillance requests of law enforcement agencies last year, assuming that each request was made for a different subscriber. This number is up from 0.18% filed in 2007. Their data included cases when they provided data for 911 call respondents while the Verizon’s data did not. AT&T also said it has hundred full-time employees which review all law enforcement surveillance requests and respond to them.
Verizon in its letter said that it has a special team of around 70 employees, and also staffs dedicated legal team that is kept ready 24/7. Sprint has a work team with 36 analysts in it that receive and review all court orders for mobile phone wiretaps and location tracking devices and another team of 175 analysts who respond to all court orders for their subscriber data, which it also stated in a letter. T-Mobile wrote that it has their own dedicated team for law enforcement relations. That team works closely with T-Mobile’s privacy team and legal department.
Meanwhile, Obama administration is actively looking for possible ways to give mobile service consumers and wireless internet customers more control and security on their private data while using Internet at Wi-Fi hotspots on laptops or just their mobile phones. Until the glorious time when the solution will be found, you can use our MONSTRO jammer to protect your mobile phone data, GPS location data and other private information from mobile phone surveillance requests of law enforcement agencies and other governmental institutions.
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