US: Two congressmen, Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), are trying to pry information out of wireless carriers about how closely they track their customers’ whereabouts. They sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile and asked what personally identifiable information is stored, how long it is kept, and for what other purposes it is used. They asked for responses before April 19, 2011.
Their request came after Germany’s Zeit Online published data showing that a cellular provider kept track of tens of thousands of locations that one person visited over six months. If the responses from the companies are illuminating, they could influence the forthcoming debate in the US Congress about whether to require police to obtain search warrants before tracking someone’s location.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is drafting legislation requiring judicial approval and a showing of probable cause to learn the locations of cell phones and, via GPS tracking, cars. The Obama Justice Department has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts. Justice Department lawyers have argued in court documents that “a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records” that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.