In a disclosure which underscores law enforcement agencies’ increasing reliance on cellphones for tracking suspects or probing crimes, a congressional inquiry has found that, in 2011, as many as 1.3 million surveillance requests were received by cellphone carriers.
According to a New York Times report, the information which the law enforcement agencies sought from the carriers last year chiefly comprised details about text messages, wire taps, and callers’ location. The carriers provided this information either because of legal orders or in emergency situations.
With the number of surveillance requests to cellphone carriers in 2011 reflecting a steady rise in such requests over the last five years, the responses of nine carriers - including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile - to the congressional inquiry clearly showed that thousands of records were turned over by them everyday due to law enforcement emergencies, or subpoenas and other orders from the courts.
Since it was for the first time that a congressional inquiry was conducted into cell surveillance by law enforcement agencies at a national level, some officials who observe the issue closely have expressed surprise at the dramatic increase in surveillance requests --- which have witnessed a 12-16 percent rise for each of the last five years.
About the 1.3 million surveillance requests’ figures for 2011, Rep. Edward J. Markey - a Massachusetts Democrat; and the co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus - said: "I never expected it to be this massive. There's a real danger we've already crossed the line."
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