AT&T charges US law enforcement for access to customer data

Posted:
in iPhone
Rather than simply hand over data when asked, AT&T is actually charging U.S. law enforcement agencies between $100,000 and $1 million or more per year to access its metadata, turning a profit, according to a report.




The data comes from AT&T's Project Hemisphere, which collects not just the call records of customers but in some cases enough data to determine where a person is located, The Daily Beast reported. Hemisphere was originally exposed in 2013, and defended by the Justice Department as a weapon in the war on drugs.

AT&T documents uncovered by the Daily Beast, however, indicate that the carrier is handing over data in cases like homicide and even Medicaid fraud, and doing so with only an administrative subpoena -- something much easier for police to obtain than a warrant.

Agencies are asked not to disclose Hemisphere's existence if an investigation they're working on becomes public, or use the evidence at all "unless there is no other available and admissible probative evidence," as mentioned in one AT&T contract. That alone is potentially problematic, since it could force agencies to fabricate a story about how they worked on a crime, even if the rest of the evidence points to the right suspect. People accused of a crime also typically have the right to know the evidence against them.

The federal government is said to be reimbursing cities for the use of Hemisphere through the same program enabling police to get military-style equipment.

An AT&T spokesperson told the Beast that the carrier has "no special database," and is required to hand over metadata by law. Past reports have indicated, though, that AT&T has records going back to 1987, making it possible to track even the users of one-time "burner" phones through patterns.

Hemisphere has been compared to the National Security Agency's mass surveillance program, which likewise gathers metadata for at-will access. Indeed AT&T has been cooperating with the NSA since at least 2003, for instance helping to install taps in internet infrastructure.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    $100,000 to $1M didn't sound bad until I read "a year". 


    Geez this is scary! 
  • Reply 2 of 15
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,114member
    Well, they shouldn't just GIVE it away.  I paid good money for them to collect it!  
    palominegilly33calironn
  • Reply 3 of 15
    Thanks for making this thread, AI. This should be of concern to everyone, not just because AT&T has been exposed for doing this, but because it should be assumed that ALL communications and data collecting companies are ALSO doing this.
    stanhopecalilongpath
  • Reply 4 of 15
    what a$$ h0les
    stanhope
  • Reply 5 of 15
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,307member
    There needs to be an uber-like app for this. Collect your own information via an app, and offer to share it to the highest bidder.
    gilly33SpamSandwich
  • Reply 6 of 15
    ronnronn Posts: 322member
    I don't like the low burden of an administrative subpoena instead of a warrant for info to be turned over, but I actually want them to charge the US government and make it publicly known for transparency sake. While it may not be wise for active investigations, it should be acknowledged when this info is used for trial/court purposes.
    gilly33calilongpathafrodri
  • Reply 7 of 15
    gilly33gilly33 Posts: 239member
    I'm stumped at something to say for this one. Letting it sink in. 
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 8 of 15
    Wonder if Facebook and Google does the same for "selling" their user database to the federal government.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    macseeker said:
    Wonder if Facebook and Google does the same for "selling" their user database to the federal government.
    To be on the safe side, you should assume that to be the case until proven otherwise. Anything on the Internet or crossing over a communications network should be thought of as "open to the public".
    edited October 2016
  • Reply 10 of 15
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 901member
    eriamjh said:
    Well, they shouldn't just GIVE it away.  I paid good money for them to collect it!  
    AT&T is double-dipping then. You are paying them AND they are selling your data.
  • Reply 11 of 15
    2oh12oh1 Posts: 501member
    Oh, yeah, we should DEFINITELY give Time Warner access to that.

    Sheesh.
  • Reply 12 of 15
    I'm sure it costs AT&T money to answer government requests for this data so why should the government not have to pay for it.  If they don't pay then the cost is being borne by AT&T customers.  I would expect that this practice is not unique to AT&T.
    ronn
  • Reply 13 of 15
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,520member

    This statement is not 100% true

    "People accused of a crime also typically have the right to know the evidence against them."

    This is only true if the evidence is going to be use to convict them. Police and the DA collect lots of information and sometime choose not to use the information to convict a person and do not close it. The problem is, the police sometimes have to rely on information they did not plan to share during the trail to convict someone because they have nothing else.

    In this case the government can use information from AT&T as well as Yahoo who was filtering emails with certain works and turning them over to the FBI, as means to zero in on the bad guys and then use other means to gather evidences against them and get a search warrant to gather the specific information they need. Technology is not the confidential informant for the government, it no different than the stich on the street.

    Do not shoot me, I do not agree with these tactics, but this is what is going on.

    edited October 2016
  • Reply 14 of 15
    clexmanclexman Posts: 148member
    maestro64 said:

    This statement is not 100% true

    "People accused of a crime also typically have the right to know the evidence against them."

    This is only true if the evidence is going to be use to convict them. Police and the DA collect lots of information and sometime choose not to use the information to convict a person and do not close it. The problem is, the police sometimes have to rely on information they did not plan to share during the trail to convict someone because they have nothing else.

    In this case the government can use information from AT&T as well as Yahoo who was filtering emails with certain works and turning them over to the FBI, as means to zero in on the bad guys and then use other means to gather evidences against them and get a search warrant to gather the specific information they need. Technology is not the confidential informant for the government, it no different than the stich on the street.

    Do not shoot me, I do not agree with these tactics, but this is what is going on.

    Didn't you ever see, "My Cousin Vinny?" Prosecutors are required to turn over all evidence to the defense. Doesn't matter if it is shared in court or not.
    ronn
  • Reply 15 of 15
    2oh1 said:
    Oh, yeah, we should DEFINITELY give Time Warner access to that.

    Sheesh.
    than they can also sell our viewing and browsing habits to the authorities as well.
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