Nancy Schaar at the Times Reporter: A 62-year-old Carrollton area man was found unconscious and unresponsive Thursday morning during an intense search overnight by Carroll County sheriff deputies, an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper and the patrol’s airplane. [Sheriff] Williams said he attempted to use the man’s cell phone signal to locate him, but the man was behind on his phone bill and the Verizon operator refused to connect the signal unless the sheriff’s department agreed to pay the overdue bill. After some disagreement, Williams agreed to pay $20 on the phone bill in order to find the man.
Though this case is from a while ago—operators are now made available to assist emergency services—it got me thinking about what makes carriers and telcos such horrible companies to deal with once you're a customer. It's because accepting a long term cellular contract is a lot like going a couple of grand in debt.
As a result, their corporate culture gravitates toward that of a collection agency. It's inevitable, even if they try to avoid it, because that's the economic bottom line of the customer-facing part of their business. If an operator is actually having to talk to you, you must be a deadbeat or some other kind of problem.
Verizon, when asked by police to find a cellphone, suffered from a perverse blind spot: it could not see beyond the fact that the cellphone's owner owed it money.
If Americans aren’t disturbed by phone carriers’ practices of handing over cell phone users’ personal data to law enforcement en masse–in many cases without a warrant–we might at least be interested to learn just how much that service is costing us in tax dollars: often hundreds or thousands per individual snooped.
Earlier this week the American Civil Liberties Union revealed a trove of documents it had obtained through Freedom of Information Requests to more than 200 police departments around the country. They show a pattern of police tracking cell phone locations and gathering other data like call logs without warrants, using devices that impersonate cell towers to intercept cellular signals, and encouraging officers to refrain from speaking about cell-tracking technology to the public, all detailed in a New York Times story.
But at least one document also details the day-to-day business of telecoms’ handing over of data to law enforcement, including a breakdown of every major carrier’s fees for every sort of data request from targeted wiretaps to so-called “tower dumps” that provide information on every user of certain cell tower. The guide, as provided by the Tucson, Arizona police department to the ACLU, is dated July 2009, and the fees it lists may be somewhat outdated. But representatives I reached by email at Verizon and AT&T both declined to detail any changes to the numbers.
Here are a few of the highlights from the fee data.
- Wiretaps cost hundreds of dollars per target every month, generally paid at daily or monthly rates. To wiretap a customer’s phone, T-Mobile charges law enforcement a flat fee of $500 per target. Sprint’s wireless carrier Sprint Nextel requires police pay $400 per “market area” and per “technology” as well as a $10 per day fee, capped at $2,000. AT&T charges a $325 activation fee, plus $5 per day for data and $10 for audio. Verizon charges a $50 administrative fee plus $700 per month, per target.
- Data requests for voicemail or text messages cost extra. AT&T demands $150 for access to a target’s voicemail, while Verizon charges $50 for access to text messages. Sprint offers the most detailed breakdown of fees for various kinds of data on a phone, asking $120 for pictures or video, $60 for email, $60 for voice mail and $30 for text messages.
- All four telecom firms also offer so-called “tower dumps” that allow police to see the numbers of every user accessing a certain cell tower over a certain time at an hourly rate. AT&T charges $75 per tower per hour, with a minimum of two hours. Verizon charges between $30 and $60 per hour for each cell tower. T-Mobile demands $150 per cell tower per hour, and Sprint charges $50 per tower, seemingly without an hourly rate.
- For location data, the carrier firms offer automated tools that let police track suspects in real time. Sprint charges $30 per month per target to use its L-Site program for location tracking. AT&T’s E911 tool costs $100 to activate and then $25 a day. T-Mobile charges a much pricier $100 per day.
In an emailed statement to me, a Verizon spokesperson told me that the company doesn’t charge police in “emergency cases, nor do we charge law enforcement for historical location information in non-emergency cases.” He added that the company doesn’t “make a profit from any of the data requests from law enforcement.” A Sprint spokesperson sent me a statement saying that the company similarly doesn’t charge law enforcement for data requests in “exigent circumstances.”
Originally posted by SyphonX
I didn't realize it was normal procedure that a Sheriff's Office could request a corporation "track" a person for them, without a warrant?
Am I supposed to expect this as "a given" now, or am I missing something.
Originally posted by Domo1
'Stingray' Phone Tracker Fuels Constitutional Clash
(visit the link for the full news article)
Stingrays are designed to locate a mobile phone even when it's not being used to make a call. The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the devices to be so critical that it has a policy of deleting the data gathered in their use, mainly to keep suspects in the dark about their capabilities, an FBI official told The Wall Street Journal in response to inquiries.
The sheriff's department in Maricopa County, Ariz., uses the equipment "about on a monthly basis," says Sgt. Jesse Spurgin.
Originally posted by nightstalker78
reply to post by oghamxx
I'm not buying this story.There's something off about it.I went to the link that's provided in the article and it just seems odd.Probably because both are poorly written.
I don't know it seems to me that this article was just written to bash Verizon.It's completley irrelavant to the story.It's focusing more on doing that than actually telling us what happened with this dude.
Originally posted by babybunnies
When I worked for Sprint, any police requests went to a specialized department that dealt with them.
I'm assuming Verizon had something similar, and the employee the police dealt with probably didn't know or bother to look up correct procedure.