Cell phone surveillance has exploded over the last five years, and carriers received more than 1.3 million demands for information from law enforcement last year, a Congressional report reveals. The carriers are dealing with thousands of requests a day from all levels of law enforcement, but some legally questionable demands are rejected, the New York Times reports. One carrier referred some unjustified requests for subscriber information to the FBI. The carriers, who are reimbursed for their costs, employ large teams of in-house experts to deal with the constant stream of requests.
Officials say cell surveillance is a very important tool in modern law enforcement, since "at every crime scene, there’s some type of mobile device," but the ACLU warns that legal procedures are often ignored, and that some agencies are gathering data on people with no real connection to crimes. "The standards really are all over the place," an ACLU lawyer says. "Nobody is saying don’t use these tools. What we’re saying is do it with consistent standards and in a way that recognizes that these are tools that really can impact people’s privacy." (Read more cell phones stories.)