The US Congress is fed up with complaints related to a boiling issue involving a number of requests passed by law enforcement agencies to mobile carriers for user’s cell phone records.
Compared to last year’s figure of 1.3 million requests, demands for user cell phone data by the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, which was reported by Rep. Ed Markey of the District of Massachusetts earlier this month, has incredibly increased compared with the previous years. The data include text messages, caller locations, and wiretaps.
Three Democrats, along with Markey, sent a PDF-formatted letter to a number of House Republicans on July 16, containing a trial request to investigate any possible lapses in the adequate protection of consumer privacy by law enforcement personnel and mobile carriers.
However, consumer privacy support groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), took into account that most mobile phone surveillances were executed without a warrant by the government, which the EFF said is against consumer privacy rights.
Almost every individual consider their mobile phones as private items, some even encrypt text messages with a pin. This current issue has brought worries to several users, especially now that what they thought were private are now available to people they hardly even know.
According to the EFF, information related to the location of your mobile phone is protected under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits against its search and seizure.
Markey also explained how these handsets “can reveal the most intimate details of one’s life,” such as if a person regularly attends mass, exercises frequently , drinks heavily, or cheats on a spouse.
The worst part is that cellular carriers are in fact earning numerous amounts of money from confidently disclosing the user’s private information.
The letter states, “The carriers’ responses also show that they are being compensated for providing this information to law enforcement agencies. Verizon charges to law enforcement ranged from $50 to retrieve up to five days of stored text message content to $1825 for multiple wiretap switches. AT&T received more than $8.2 million in 2011 for ‘collecting and submitting customer phone usage information to law enforcement.’”
Though consumer privacy support groups have raised an issue regarding the Obama administration’s argument that necessitating authorities to acquire a warrant for private information in mobile phones, is “burdensome”, the EFF has reported that Markey “and other members of Congress are working on legislation that would draw a clearer line on how the police can get access to such data.”
Image: Dru Bloomfield via Flickr (CC)