NYPD quietly amassing database of stolen cell phone logs

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
Font Size:

The New York Police Department has been quietly amassing a database of logs from stolen cell phones, often without the victim’s consent, The New York Times reported Monday.

The phone’s call records, which are obtained via subpoena, include a thief’s calls, calls made to and from the victim’s cell phone and whether the number was transferred. That information is entered into a database called Enterprise Case Management System, where each number is hyperlinked and cross-referenced with numbers in other records in the database.

“To date, phone companies have appeared willing to accede to the Police Department’s requests for large swaths of call records,” reported The New York Times, stating that thousands of subpoenas are issued a year.

A victim’s consent is only needed if the phone records belonged to a Sprint Nextel customer. NYPD is able to obtain a subpoena for records for stolen phones belonging to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Metro-PCS customers without victim consent or knowledge.

In a world where vast quantities of data are made easily understandable with high-powered computers, those analyzing the data often view that more is better.

Cell phones contain an abundance of personal information useful to law enforcement: location data, personal messages and social networking information.

As the department quietly builds its database, courts across the country are struggling reaching consensus on how to balance privacy expectations for cellphones in light of law enforcement operational demands.

The NYPD’s data collection efforts extend far beyond obtaining stolen cell phone records.

In August, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the Domain Awareness System, a video surveillance system built in partnership with Microsoft that allows NYPD to track suspicious and criminal activity in real time.

Follow Josh on Twitter

Josh Peterson