Cellphone carriers responded to 1.3 million requests for information from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies last year, according to information obtained by Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ed Markey.
Carriers provided law enforcement agencies text messages, phone location data and wiretaps. Law enforcement also requested the carriers provide “cell tower dumps” in which all the phone numbers that ping off a specific tower during a select period of time are collected.
AT&T said it received more than 700 requests daily in 2011, of which 230 were deemed emergencies that did not require a search warrant or subpoena.
Verizon reported that it has seen a 15 percent annual increase in law enforcement requests, and T-Mobile said it has seen a 12 to 16 percent increase annually.
“Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack?” Markey said in a statement. “We cannot allow privacy protections to be swept aside with the sweeping nature of these information requests, especially for innocent consumers.”
Markey received information from U.S. Cellular, Sprint, T-Mobile, Leap and Cricket, MetroPCS, Verizon, AT&T, C Spire and TracFone after inquiring because of an article he read in The New York Times.
This information comes shortly after Google and Twitter released reports of their own dealings with government officials.