Verizon, AT&T Make a Pretty Penny Off Wiretaps

Government pays Verizon $500 a month to eavesdrop on a line

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 11, 2013 2:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – If you think your cellphone bill is bad, just be thankful you're not the snoops at the FBI or NSA. Tapping a single Verizon customer's phone costs the government $775 for the first month, and $500 for each month thereafter, while AT&T charges a $325 "activation fee" plus $10 a day, according to documents released to congressman Ed Markey last year. Taxpayers dole out for these and other carrier fees in what has become a multimillion-dollar market, according to CBS and the AP.

The phone industry says it doesn't profit on the deal, with Verizon protesting that it pays 70 employees to work non-stop processing a quarter-million tap requests a year. "We do not sell customers' personal information," Verizon told Markey. We "seek reimbursement for only a portion of our reasonable expenses." Other companies have automated the process; Sprint has an automated website allowing authorities to track users' location data for $30 a month, and gets 8 million requests a year.

Pedestrians pass a Verizon Wireless store on Canal Street, June 6, 2013, in New York.
Pedestrians pass a Verizon Wireless store on Canal Street, June 6, 2013, in New York.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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