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Cops Collect Ever More Mobile Device Info

In 2011 law enforcement agencies made more than 1.3 million requests for customer cell phone records. Larry Greenemeier reports

We rely heavily on our cell phones. And law enforcement increasingly relies on information gathered from those phones to investigate crimes. A victim or suspect's mobile phone records can tell police who they've been speaking to or texting with accurate time stamps. Some records also track the location of the call or text.

More surprising is just how often local, state and federal authorities ask phone companies for this information.

In 2011, law enforcement agencies made more than 1.3 million requests for customer cell phone records, according to a new Congressional report. Verizon says these requests have increased about 15 percent annually since 2007. 

Congress is worried that the police may be gathering wireless data indiscriminately, grabbing information about innocent and guilty alike. Another concern is the fees charged to retrieve these records. AT&T billed law enforcement more than $8.2 million last year.

The data dump raises obvious privacy concerns. And reminds us that the more connected we are, the less privacy we can expect.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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