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Markey Expands Data Collection Investigation

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) says he has sent letters to the major wireless carriers seeking more information related to his ongoing investigation into law enforcement requests for, and surveillance of, mobile data.

Markey asked for the number of requests received in 2013 and 2014 from law enforcement agencies for mobile phone information as well as whether it was with a warrant or other standard. Markey's inquiry was driven partly by a report in The Wall Street Journal that federal and local law enforcement do not obtain warrants in some instances before using the tracking equipment to harvest data.

Markey's latest request also includes whether the wireless carriers had received requests for encryption keys so customer communications could be decrypted.

Letters were sent to AT&T Inc., C Spire Wireless, Cricket Wireless LLC, Sprint Nextel Corporation, T-Mobile USA Inc., U.S. Cellular and Verizon Communications Inc. Markey wants the info by June 11.

The letters come as the Senate is debating how, and whether, to pass a bill, the USA Freedom Act, that would attempt to end indiscriminate bulk collection of telecom data by the National Security Agency.

The House has passed the bill, but the Senate has yet to act, and an alternative offered up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would renew that bulk collection as part of a short-term straight renewal of PATRIOT Act provisions set to sunset at the end of the month.

“America is in the middle of an historic national debate about the legal, constitutional and privacy implications of the mass collection of our telephone information,” said Markey, a member of the Commerce Committee, which oversees communications. “Mobile phone data can be an important tool in law enforcement efforts to protect Americans, but we cannot allow the pervasive collection of this information, especially of innocent Americans. As mobile phones have become 21st century wallets, personal assistants, and navigation devices — tracking each click we make and step we take — we need to know what information is being shared with law enforcement."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.