In an article written for Slate, Catherine Crump of the ACLU's National Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, discusses letters obtained today by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) in response to his inquiry with major cellphone companies for information on how often they receive requests for customer's data from law enforcement.
The letters reveal information which are startling, but not surprising: T-Mobile and AT&T have received approximately 600,000 requests for customer's information in 2012 alone, and often without a warrant. The ACLU is calling on the White House to update the electronic privacy laws that are enabling law enforcement to engage in this warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans.
It’s long past time for Congress to update our electronic privacy laws. For starters, it should raise the standards law enforcement must meet to access cell phone records. The content of communications and location data should always require a warrant. The standard for getting data on who you call and when should also be raised, as it currently only requires “relevance” to an investigation.
No one denies that there are times when access to cell phone records is appropriate. We all want the bad guys to get caught. But we also want to make sure the innocent aren’t needlessly targeted, and the best way to achieve the right balance is to require law enforcement agents to go to court and get a warrant.