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"I never expected it to be this massive," said Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who requested the data from nine carriers -- including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon -- in response to an article in April in The New York Times on law enforcement's expanded use of cell tracking. Mr. Markey, who is the co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, made the carriers' responses available to The Times.
WASHINGTON -- In the first public accounting of its kind, cell phone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 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.
AT&T alone now responds to 230 emergency requests a day nationwide -- triple the number it fielded in 2007, the company told Mr. Markey. Law enforcement requests of all kinds have been rising quickly among the other carriers as well, with annual increases of between 12 percent and 16 percent in the last five years. Sprint led the way last year, reporting more than 500,000 law enforcement requests for data.
The cell phone carriers' reports also reveal a sometimes uneasy partnership with law enforcement agencies, with the carriers frequently rejecting demands that they considered legally questionable or unjustified. At least one carrier even referred some inappropriate requests to the FBI.
As cell surveillance increased, warrants for wiretapping by federal and local officials -- eavesdropping on conversations -- declined 14 percent last year to 2,732, according to a recent report from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Read more: www.post-gazette.com...