United States law enforcement agencies are requesting user information such as “text messages, caller locations and other information” at an alarming rate—at least 1.3 million requests last year alone—according to cellular carriers.
This is our new age of digital law enforcement: The cops are coming for your cell phones, and the law is too dumb to stop them.
Over the past five years, Verizon has seen the number of requests increase by 15 percent a year, coming to 260,000 in 2011. AT&T alone has seen the number of requests triple, ballooning to over 700 per day. Under normal circumstances, a subpoena can net your basic account info like your name, address, and credit card number, which is bad enough. Beyond that, law enforcement needs a court order or a warrant to frack your texts, calls, and locations. But 230 of those 700 daily requests that AT&T is fielding are designated emergencies, which circumvent the typical court order process. Emergencies, as noted in Verizon’s letter to Representative Edward J. Markey, are supposed to involve “danger of death or serious physical injury.”