Summary:

State and local police departments requested 9,000 “cell tower dumps” last year to gather reams of data on private calls — a practice that cries out for guidelines, according to Senator Edward Markey.

cell phone tower / cellphone tower / antenna
photo: Shutterstock / SERHAT AKAVCI

The NSA and its overseas equivalents don’ t have a monopoly on cell phone snooping. In the U.S., state and local law enforcement and investigative agencies are doing a lot of heavy lifting in the form of massive cell tower data dumps, according to The Washington Post. And there’s little in the way of uniform guidelines to limit how much data they can take and store.

These non-federal law enforcers made 9,000 requests to various carriers that enabled them to dump all cell call data bouncing off various towers for periods of typically more than two hours, according to information gleaned by a congressional committee chaired by Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.)

The goal is to come up with legislation to make sure such requests for consumer phone data serve a criminal investigation purpose and are tightly focused in the type of data gathered and stored, as opposed to wide-ranging fishing expeditions.

The committee surveyed eight U.S. phone companies including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and found that the data now gathered sometimes includes GPS location data, web site addresses and even numbers dialed.

Markey told the Post:

“This isn’t the NSA asking for information … It’s your neighborhood police department requesting your mobile phone data. So there are serious questions about how law enforcement handles the information of innocent people swept up in these digital dragnets.”

The extent to which private citizens are being watched/eavesdropped upon is mind-numbing. The FBI may be using malware to turn a suspect’s PC camera into a surveillance tool, according to another Washington Post report.

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