A report released by US cell phone companies shows a disturbing spike in the number of requests by US law enforcement agencies for cell phone information. Even more disturbing, most law enforcement agencies do not provide a proper warrant.
The new information reported by the New York Times shows that US cell phone companies responded to an overwhelming 1.3 million requests from law enforcement officials to provide cell phone data. The results show a dramatic yearly increase, suggesting an increasing reliance and willingness of law enforcement to use the information at will.
The numbers show anincrease in the number of information requests –from 12per cent to 15 per cent – over the past five years. Interestingly enough, cell phone carriers can now turn a profit by charging per request, and have hired their own round-the-clock lawyers to deal with the possible legal problems that might arise .
For example, the number of requests fielded by AT & T alone has tripled over the course of the last five years, responding to about 700 a day. Thirty of those requests are deemed ‘emergency cases’ which do not require a warrant.
“I never expected it to be this massive,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who requested the reports from nine carriers, as reported by the New York Times.
Coupled with an American Civil Liberties Union report in April, however, there is a disturbing problem with the way law enforcement agencies are making their requests; they hardly ever ask for warrants.
The ACLU report made waves when its investigation uncovered not only the widespread requests, but also discovered that the practice was so commonplace that most cell phone companies have started to charge money per inquiry, making a profit in turn. Also, the amount of requests have become so large that the cell phone companies themselves have displayed a note of concern, hiring their own teams of in-house lawyers to evaluate the legality of every information request.