Social media isn’t the only sector being watched by the government. According to a poll conducted by Senator Edward Markey’s office, requests for customer mobile phone data from seven major service providers topped over 1 million in 2012 alone.
Markey says that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile each received over 250,000 requests individually from federal, state and local authorities seeking information. Sprint-Nextel did not give the senator’s office numbers in a letter but agreed to meet with the senator in person. Of the companies, AT&T claimed to have received the most, at 297,500 requests.
The results were in response to a survey given out by Markey to each of the companies. Within the survey, companies responded to five questions. Among the questions were: “How many total requests did your company receive from law enforcement to provide information about your customers' phone usage?” and “In 2012, did your company receive money or other forms of compensation in exchange for providing information to law enforcement?”
According to the results published on Markey's website, the carriers were able to answer the majority of questions. But as pointed out by CNET, all of the carriers dodged one major question: “How many requests did your company receive under Section 315 of the Patriot Act?”
Many of the responses to the Patriot Act question were similar to that from T-Mobile US: “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.”
This type of non-response concerning the Patriot Act and government surveillance is common; just look at how Facebook and Google asked the government for the ability to release more of the requests it receives in September. Markey, however, says this lack of transparency should stop.
In accordance with his findings, Markey plans on introducing a bill that would introduce added transparency and curb bulk data requests to cell phone service providers. “We need a Fourth Amendment for the 21st century,” Markey said in a statement. “Disclosure of personal information from wireless devices raises significant legal and privacy concerns, particularly for innocent consumers.”
Senator Markey isn’t the only one speaking out against government surveillance, as evidenced by these InsideCounsel articles: