Saturday, March 14, 2009

Feds submit 20k phone location requests per year, no warrant required

Update: the lazy amongst you can read Ethan Zuckerman's summary of the lecture. You're missing out though, really.

Last week, the Berkman Center hosted Al Gidari, a partner at Perkins Coie, who frequently represents some of the major telecom companies as well as a few household names in the Web 2.0 world. Most famously, he represented Google, and helped to fight off the Department of Justice's request for search logs.

I was super happy to have helped to bring Al to Berkman. He is one of the most knowledgeable people out there on the obscure and shadowy world of surveillance law.

Perhaps the most interesting gem for me was Al's mention that the wireless carriers each receive about 100 requests per week from law enforcement for the location information on consumers. Most importantly, one request can be for "every person using this particular cell tower in a 10 minute span" -- and thus, can apply to hundreds or thousands of people.

100 requests per week * 4 wireless carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) * 52 weeks = 20,800 requests per year, none of which require a warrant or judicial oversight. Scary.

If you only watch one lecture this year, watch this. I've embedded the video here, but Flash-streaming version, and downloadable mp4s/mp3s for your iPod can be found at the Berkman Center site.


alaric said...

none of which require a warrant or judicial oversight

I don't think that's correct, Chris. The Justice Department readily concedes that in order to compel a carrier to turn over even historical cell-site records, it needs a court order. (See the gov't brief linked to by this recent Wired blog post.) The debate is over what kind of court order is needed, not whether it's needed at all.

Anonymous said...

100 requests/week leaves a lot of room for +-(1-2)