The New York Times ran an article detailing the large numbers of information requests that wireless phone carriers in the United States get from the various law enforcement bodies seeking our private information regarding our cell phones. In most cases, as the article points out, these requests are not warrants — which must be approved by an independent judge — but instead are simply subpoenas issued by the law enforcement officer without oversight. The current state of the law permits this sort of access to data, but it should not. Congress should waste no time in taking up comprehensive reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in response to these revelations, and give full warrant protections to user’s content online and in the mobile space, as well as to information about their whereabouts.
The top line takeaway from the New York Times article is that cell phone carriers in the United States responded to a grand total of 1.3 million demands from law enforcement for various kinds of information about their customers. CCIA also hopes the volume of demand will lead to more support for geolocation privacy legislation offered by Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. The geolocation bill would require the government to show probable cause and get a warrant before requesting cell phone data. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.