Police Requests for Cellphone Data Surge

600,000 per year. I could have written a long intro that slowly lead into a soft sentence to support that offensively large figure, but there are just so many ways one can go about applying lipstick to the same pig.

Thanks to an inquiry by Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the ACLU gained access to a bulk of records claiming that in 2012 alone, local police officials from America and the UK placed over 600,000 requests for the content of phone calls, location data, intercepted text messages, and even exact GPS coordinates. This represents a twofold increase in these types of information requests in only a five year period, exemplifying just how out of control the situation had gotten up until this point.

T-Mobile and AT&T make up the bulk of these requests, although Sprint also reported about 1,500 requests on their networks, including several thousand more for subsidiaries of the telecom such as Boost and Virgin Mobile.

The ACLU also uncovered evidence that the companies had enabled federal agencies to track the web browsing habits of their users in real time, skirting the edges of the nearly two-decade old Electronic Communications Privacy Act, first passed way back in 1986 before cell phones or emails were even a blip on Congress’ radar.

“Have no doubt, police see our mobile devices as the go-to source for information, likely in part because of the lack of privacy protections afforded by the law,” said Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “Our mobile devices quite literally store our most intimate thoughts as well as the details of our personal lives. The idea that police can obtain such a rich treasure trove of data about any one of us without appropriate judicial oversight should send shivers down our spines.”

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