For years now, AT&T, Verizon and other telecom companies have handed over customer information to the NSA whenever asked. Even today, AT&T and Verizon are still being asked to hand over massive amounts of customer information. During the first six months of 2014, Verizon and AT&T were asked to hand over customer information a total of 265,000 times by law enforcement.
Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T may in fact tell the NSA that in the future if the government agency wants a cellphone users’ location, they will need to get a warrant. At the moment, the NSA legally is able to request location data on a customer without a warrant (though they still do need a judge’s permission) due to a past Supreme Court case which was written in the 1970’s and says that “phone records” were business records held by the phone companies and not private documents.
But AT&T filed a brief on Monday in an appeals-court case and stated that the previous Supreme Court case did not apply to today due to the vast difference in technology from the 1970’s to today. The case specifically involves the question of whether investigators properly obtained cellphone location data on a person.
“Nothing in those [prior court] decisions contemplated, much less required, a legal regime that forces individuals to choose between maintaining their privacy and participating in the emerging social, political, and economic world facilitated by the use of today’s mobile devices or other location-based services,’’ – AT&T Court Document, WSJ.com
Just last week, the Wall Street Journal wrote about a secret Justice Department program that used devices on airplanes which collected data from cellphones of people on those airplanes.
It seems likely that the issue will be headed to the Supreme Court in the near future.