Washington Post: Agencies collected data on Americans’ cellphone use in thousands of ‘tower dumps’
Tower dumps raise in the law enforcement context some of the same concerns presented by the NSA’s mass collection of phone records without a warrant, when large amounts of data on law-abiding citizens are gathered to find clues about a small number of suspects, privacy advocates and some industry lawyers say. But unlike the NSA collection, which is bound by court-imposed rules on retention and use, the standards for obtaining tower data and the limits on its use by a plethora of agencies are inconsistent and unclear.
“This isn’t the NSA asking for information,” said Markey, who is planning to introduce legislation this month to restrict law enforcement’s use of consumers’ phone data, including ensuring that tower dumps are narrowly focused. “It’s your neighborhood police department requesting your mobile phone data. So there are serious questions about how law enforcement handles the information of innocent people swept up in these digital dragnets.”