Sprint Turns Over User GPS Data to Police 8 Million Times a Year

Maximum PC Staff

Let’s face it, privacy is dead. In this increasingly electronic and inter-linked world, with its capacity to capture, store, and analyze data by the digital ton, the minute you step foot into it you’ve surrendered any claim to privacy you ever thought you had.

Sprint, it turns out, has been routinely handing over GPS information on its customers to law enforcement for some time. So commonplace is the practice that Sprint has setup an automated system for law enforcement to check on subscriber whereabouts (apparently even without a court order).

Sprint coughed-up GPS information to law enforcement eight million times last year. Not on eight million users, Sprint is quick to point out. Rather law enforcement can request GPS information on any particular user every three minutes for up to 60 days. (After that Sprint doesn’t say what happens.)

And Sprint isn’t the only one handing out information about you.

Yahoo and Verizon also provide law enforcement access to customer information . Neither company will discuss the nature or extent of law enforcement surveillance for fear their customers would be “shocked” or “confused” by what types of surveillance law enforcement is permitted. Verizon further justifies its secrecy in the matter saying it doesn’t want to commit resources to dealing with customers that might be concerned with its practices.

The willingness, if not eagerness of companies, such as Yahoo and Verizon, and Comcast and Cox Communications, to ‘rat’ you out is easily explained: they get paid for the service they provide. Comcast, for example, in 2007 charged $1,000 for the first month of a wiretap, and $750 each month after. Cox Communications charges $2,500 for a 60-day pen register/trap-and-trace order, with each successive 60-day interval going for $2,000. Yahoo wouldn’t divulge its pricing scheme, claiming it was “confidential commercial information.” All-in-all, it’s better than 30 pieces of silver.

(Law enforcement’s activities here may well be legitimate. But how can we be certain if, as it appears, there is no system for accountability?)

Law enforcement could well be the least of your worries. Sprint confessed it keeps 24-months of URL histories from some devices--not for law enforcement, but for its marketing department. Apparently “marketing wants to rifle through the data.” It’s a good bet Sprint isn't the only one tracking your ever move online.

Odd thing is, according to Jared Newman of PCWorld , no one seems to care; it’s not a “big story.” Jared writes: “Slowly, I'm resigning my expectations of privacy. If law enforcement doesn't get my data, it seems that marketers surely will.”

Image Credit: ChrisJS2008/Flickr

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