Markey Seeks DOJ Info On Airborne Surveillance

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has asked the Department of Justice for more information on its airborne cell phone surveillance.

In the wake of a Wall Street Journal story on the DOJ using planes bearing equipment that mimics cell towers in an effort to intercept cell phone communications, Markey said that program raises serious questions about how the DOJ protects privacy and whether the program is even legal.

Privacy and data collection were key issues for Markey when he was a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, where he teamed up with then House Privacy Caucus co-chair Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) in a bipartisan effort to pass legislation in that area, particularly when it affected kids and sought information on data breaches and government collection.

"Whether in cyberspace or aerospace, the collection of American's personal information raises significant legal and privacy concerns, particularly for innocent consumers. We need to know what information is being collected, what authority is being used to collect it, and if and how this information is retained and stored," Markey said in the letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Among the questions he wants answered by Dec. 8 are whether other agencies have similar programs, how many times info has been collected with a plane, drone or helicopter, what court orders have authorized those methods, what information it is collecting and whether it notified people when their info had been collected.

"Americans are rightfully disturbed by just how pervasive collection of mobile phone information is, even of innocent individuals. While this data can be an important tool for law enforcement to identify and capture criminals and terrorists, we must ensure the privacy rights of Americans are protected," said Markey

John Eggerton

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.