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Cell Carriers Responded Last Year To 1.3M Law Enforcement Data Requests 155

Stirling Newberry writes "The New York Times reports: 'In the first public accounting of its kind, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a daunting 1.3 million demands for subscriber data last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations.' One stinging statistic: AT&T responds to an average of 700 requests per day, and turns down only 18 per week. Sprint gets 500,000 requests per year. While many requests are backed by court orders, most are not. Some include 'dumps' of tower data, which captures everyone near by at a certain time."
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Cell Carriers Responded Last Year To 1.3M Law Enforcement Data Requests

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  • Percentages -- (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bookwyrm ( 3535 ) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:58PM (#40587653)

    Not to sound dismissive of the situation, but I have to be kind of curious -- does anyone have the statistics/numbers for how the increasing number of requests to carriers for subscriber data aligns with the increasing number of people using cellular devices (and that some people now have multiple cellular devices)? It would be useful to to understand if the rate of increase of requests is far in excess of the rate of increase in subscriber growth (and perhaps decrease in land-line usage), mimics it, or is smaller than it. (I am assuming it is exceeding the subscriber growth rate considerably, but it would be nice to have the breakdown.)

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @11:09PM (#40587731)

    Sprint gets 500,000 requests per year.

    Are each of those requests for data from one user each? Or is it something like one request per SMS message? Could they be trying to collect whole conversations one request at a time?

    I'm just trying to figure out if these 500k requests mean 500k individuals being investigated or of it's more like 1,000 people across the whole country.

  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @11:46PM (#40587991) Journal

    I don't know if that works for oppression, but I remember reading somewhere that if you actually did the experiment, the frog would jump out if it is actually possible to do (i.e. the pot is small enough, water level, etc)

    What's the public policy analogue of jumping out of the pot, though...

  • by Monkier ( 607445 ) * on Sunday July 08, 2012 @11:57PM (#40588079)

    Someone steals my identity (from cards in a wallet robbed from my house) - signs up a bunch of cell phones in my name, then steps out on the bill. The police get me to fill out a form, and I spend hours dealing with 3 different cell companies, and debt collection agency.

    Do you think the police checked any cell tower data to find the perpetrator?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08, 2012 @11:59PM (#40588097)

    From someone who just went through TSA hell today, this country is done. Not because the TSA stomped all over me after I did something big; rather, because the TSA displayed an amazing level of fascist arrogance at a slight thing. I chuckled when the agent went through my credit cards, individually, in my wallet. He said, "Is something funny?" (in that cop-talk, fascist fashion). I just turned, and went to collect my stuff.

    I'm prepared to turn my back on my country, because this is not what I signed up for. I do want the police around - to enforce laws that don't violate the constitution. I don't want them to display a complete fascist power-corruption. I'm scared. I'm truly scared, that this is pre-war Germany, all over again.

    This cell carrier thing just reflects the overall sentiment in this country to just go along with illegal government activities. Maybe they're scared too. I certainly didn't stand up to the TSA agent. Should I have? I don't know. But I don't like where this is heading. I'm starting to think that this will lead to a violent revolution Certainly that would be better than slipping into a fascist country, though I think we're already there.

    Laws are so broad now that EVERYONE is a criminal. Or, certainly exposed to being prosecuted and convicted, and thrown into jail for decades, though they've done nothing wrong.

  • Re:Many and Most (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blackraven14250 ( 902843 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @12:06AM (#40588143)
    Also, the sheer number is astounding, if the overlap on these requests tends to mean there' mostly unique customers on these requests. 1 out of every 100 people in the US is spied on seems to be complete overkill for their job.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:01AM (#40591155)

    I once was hand carrying a laptop with classified information on units going to Iraq and a lot of logistical information relating to the matter. This happens all the time, because you can't exactly FedEx classified equipment. "Hey, you're going to XYZ? Here, take this and give it to So and So." I was traveling on government orders, at government expense, using government ID, carrying a laptop with bright stickers on them detailing the level of classification (hidden in a bag). So naturally I was flagged for a "random search".

    TSA put laptop out in the open and told me they were going to take it "for testing." I told them they could do so, if they wanted me to call the FBI and CID for theft of classified information. Oh, and call a couple services' counterintel folks to let them know their movements are now compromised. They can do whatever they want to me, but the laptop does not leave my sight and does not get powered on. The TSA people freaked. First because someone didn't knuckle under and second because I was dead serious. They tried "We get government computers all the time. Why are you giving me such a hard time when the FBI, CIA, etc doesn't?" "Because either those are unclassified laptops, or they should be stripped of their clearance because they're not following policy. I know you don't have a clearance."

    They did exactly what I told them. They ripped my luggage apart, put a clearly marked classified laptop on display for the entire world, searched me about three times, made sure I missed my plane, etc. Plus tagged me for future "random searches". But they sure as hell didn't take that laptop out of my sight.

    Just so you know. The government is not a single cohesive entity. I was certified twelve ways to Sunday as "pretty unlikely to be a terrorist" and I still got treated as bad or worse than the kids and grandma's the TSA loves to molest. Heck, folks allowed to go on the aircraft with firearms still get their water confiscated. All of us are minions to the ruling class.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.