Surveillance Requests to Cellphone Carriers Surge

9:09 PM, Jul 11, 2012   |    comments
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Your cell phone may not be as private as you think.

Law enforcement authorities are tracking many of us without our knowledge, and cell phone carriers know all about it.

We all walk around with our cell phones. They help us connect.

But little did we know, even when our phones are tucked away in our purses or pockets, we're still connecting and being tracked.

Every seven seconds, data from our phones is sent to cell towers, even when our phones are off.

What happens to that information?

"This information can tell people anything they want about that person," says Trevor Timm, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to Timm, law enforcement agencies are asking for GPS, contacts, and other the data, and cell phone carriers, like AT&T and Verizon, are giving it away, without your permission.

"There's actually what's called cell phone tower dumps. They're going after one person, but get information on anyone who was around a cell phone taken at a certain time, even though they're investigating one person, they have information on hundreds or thousands of people," says Timm.

But why are cell phone carriers giving your information away without even a subpoena?

AT&T declined to comment, but they did send a letter to a lawmaker who asked the same question.

The company says customer privacy is important, and that it does 'not' respond to law enforcement without going through the appropriate legal process.

Verizon Wireless responded in a similar way.

The New York Times says cell carriers responded to 1.3 million demands for subscriber data last year alone.

It's the new surveillance, without you knowing it.

"It's really dangerous, even for people who are completely innocent, their information could be getting taken by the government, and used in all sorts of ways they don't know about," says Timm.

There is a bill in Congress right now called the "GPS Act" that would require police to get a warrant in order access anyone's cell phone information. 

NBC Newschannel

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