Is the Digital Data Boom Creating a Surveillance State?

A new Congressional inquiry has found that 1.3 million requests were made by law enforcement officials last year for cellphone subscriber information, including geo-location information. 

What's the Latest Development?


Local, state and federal law enforcement officials made 1.3 million demands for cellphone subscriber information last year, according to a Congressional inquiry created to address the matter. It seems that, thanks to the boom in digital data activity, authorities are becoming reliant on digital surveillance to conduct investigations. "The data turned over include geo-location information, based on cell tower and Global Positioning System coordinates; calls made and received; text message content; and wiretap information," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) who requested the information from carriers, including records on 'cell tower' dumps, in which carriers provide authorities with data on cellphone use near a specific cell tower. 

What's the Big Idea?

The increase in digital surveillance requests contrasts sharply with traditional wiretaps, which were only authorized 3,000 times in 2010, although the two surveillance techniques serve the same purpose of intercepting communication between individuals. The practice of collecting data from companies that indiscriminately store their users' data is prompting debate about legal standards and privacy protections. According to the Congressional inquiry, "carriers have turned down requests they deem to be unwarranted or not backed up by the required degree of legal justification." 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

 

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less
Sponsored

James Patterson on writing: Plotting, research, and first drafts

The best-selling author tells us his methods.

Videos
  • James Patterson has sold 300 million copies of his 130 books, making him one of the most successful authors alive today.
  • He talks about how some writers can overdo it by adding too much research, or worse, straying from their outline for too long.
  • James' latest book, The President is Missing, co-written with former President Bill Clinton, is out now.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Why the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner won’t feature a comedian in 2019

It's the first time the association hasn't hired a comedian in 16 years.

(Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)
Culture & Religion
  • The 2018 WHCA ended in controversy after comedian Michelle Wolf made jokes some considered to be offensive.
  • The WHCA apologized for Wolf's jokes, though some journalists and many comedians backed the comedian and decried arguments in favor of limiting the types of speech permitted at the event.
  • Ron Chernow, who penned a bestselling biography of Alexander Hamilton, will speak at next year's dinner.
Keep reading Show less