Dem senator: How often do police request cellphone data?

Dem senator: How often do police request cellphone data?
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Twitter tells facial-recognition app maker to stop collecting its data Democratic senator presses facial recognition company after reports of law enforcement collaboration MORE (D-Mass.) said Thursday that he wants more information from wireless companies about law enforcement agencies’ requests for mobile phone data.

In letters sent to seven wireless providers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Cricket, U.S. Cellular and C Spire — Markey asked them to disclose how many requests for data they received in 2013 and 2014. He also asked them to break the requests down by the type of data wanted, among other questions.


It’s part of a continuing effort from Markey to investigate how law enforcement agencies use cellphone data.

“Mobile phone data can be an important tool in law enforcement efforts to protect Americans, but we cannot allow the pervasive collection of this information, especially of innocent Americans,” he said in a statement. “As mobile phones have become 21st century wallets, personal assistants, and navigation devices — tracking each click we make and step we take — we need to know what information is being shared with law enforcement.”

Markey has also shown an interest in reports that federal officials use devices that act like cellphone towers in order to intercept communications emanating from a mobile phone. In his letters, he asked the wireless companies for the first time if they had received requests for the unique keys that could be used to decrypt data from a phone.

The senator’s office said in late 2013 that it had found roughly 1.1 million instances during 2012 in which law enforcement agencies had asked for mobile phone data.

His expanded investigation comes as Congress debates whether to end the warrantless bulk collection of U.S. phone records.