Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies collect data on Americans’ cellphone activity with the cooperation of phone companies, according to an investigation by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
Last year law enforcement collected more than 9,000 records from “tower dumps,” information from calls that bounce off cell towers, which can be used to track people’s movements, the Washington Post reported.
Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T, the three largest cellphone companies, received more than 50,000 emergency requests from law enforcement, for which agencies do not need a search warrant, according to the Boston Globe.
Markey has led a two-year charge to investigate data collection by law enforcement agencies, and found that standards for requesting and using phone records vary widely among law enforcement agencies.
“This isn’t the NSA asking for information,” Markey told the Washington Post. “It’s your neighborhood police department requesting your mobile phone data. So there are serious questions about how law enforcement handles the information of innocent people swept up in these digital dragnets.”
Police departments have not just been collecting information on calls, but also GPS data, websites and search terms, according to the Post. Markey will soon introduce legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before requesting any cellphone data.
Additionally, at least 25 police departments have stingrays, electronic devices that act as cellphone towers to connect to phones and collect data, records requested by USA Today revealed.