by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 1st 2009 1:39pm
This seems too insane to be true, but the EFF points us to a report, based on a Freedom of Information Act request, that claims Sprint provided law enforcement with GPS location data a staggering 8 million times in the last year. Sprint apparently set up some sort of portal that made such requests easier, and it sounds like law enforcement took advantage of that in a major way. The report also notes that this information should have been disclosed to Congress, under a 1999 law, but the Justice Department has ignored the law for the past five years. The rest of the report also looks at some other concerning factors, such as the fact that the government seems to regularly get all sorts of info from service providers, with little oversight. On top of that, it explains why so many service providers agree to it: they charge the government for such info, and it's quite lucrative. As such, they actually have the incentive to encourage the government to ask for more information and to deliver it to them as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, you have to wonder how so many requests are being made with such little oversight -- and how often this means the process is abused to spy on individuals with no legal basis. Update: Sprint is now trying to explain this by saying that the numbers represent number of "pings" and that can include thousands of pings per a single investigation. In a single investigation, once law enforcement has a court order, it can check someone's location every 3 minutes for up to 60 days -- and that's what made the number so inflated.
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