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Congressional Inquiry Reveals ‘Explosion in Cellphone Surveillance’

Posted Jul 9, 2012 8:49 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Cellphone carriers responded to 1.3 million law enforcement demands for information in 2011, according to information revealed in a congressional inquiry.

The information sought included text messages and caller locations, the New York Times reports. According to the newspaper, the reports from nine carriers “document an explosion in cellphone surveillance in the last five years, with the companies turning over records thousands of times a day.”

Sometimes the companies rejected the requests because they questioned the legal justification, the story says. The carriers generally required a search warrant, court order or formal subpoena before releasing information. In emergency cases, however, the companies released information in response to less formal requests.

The increase in cellphone surveillance coincides with a 14 percent decline last year in wiretap requests, suggesting a shift in surveillance techniques, the Times says.

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