Carriers Got 1M Gov’t, Police Requests for Data in 2012

Requests for customer mobile phone data from federal, state, and local authorities topped 1 million last year, according to Senator Edward Markey.

The results were revealed Monday by the senator’s office, which published letters received from the major US carriers in response to questions from Markey. The senator’s questions touched on such topics as:

  • How many total requests did your company receive from law enforcement to provide information about your customers’ phone usage?
  • How long does your company retain records for law enforcement?
  • How many of the requests did your company fulfill, and how many did it deny?
  • In 2012, did your company receive money or other forms of compensation in exchange for providing information to law enforcement?
  • How many requests did your company receive under Section 315 of the Patriot Act?

The number of requests made to Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile individually weren’t far from each other. Verizon said it got about 270,000 requests, AT&T received 297,500, and T-Mobile got 297,350. Sprint Nextel said it wouldn’t be able to give specific numbers in a letter but offered to meet with the senator and his staff in person.

Collectively, though, all the requests received by those carriers added up to more than 1 million.

Most of the carriers, including Cricket Communications and C Spire managed a response to the majority of the questions. But each was mum when it came to requests allowed under the Patriot Act.

A typical response was one that came from T-Mobile US (TMUS):

TMUS understands that the Department of Justice considers whether or not a provider receives any request under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to be classified, as well as the total number of such requests, if any. Accordingly, TMUS can neither confirm nor deny that it receives such requests.

Of course, the carriers aren’t the culprits here. Rather, It’s the US government that has muzzled them in their attempt to disclose any information about such requests. The carriers and other tech companies have asked the feds for the freedom to reveal more information about requests for their customers’ phone data. But for now their hands, and tongues, are tied.

Read more at C|NET

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