• On July 16, 2012, Democrats on the House Commerce Committee sent a letter to the Committee’s Republican leadership requesting a hearing on “consumer privacy concerns arising from recent reports that cell phone tracking is being widely used by law enforcement officials.” According to the letter, in April the New York Times reported that law enforcement departments were paying mobile carriers to obtain information on subscribers, such as call records and location data. In response to those press accounts, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., sent letters to nine mobile carriers. On July 9, 2012, Rep. Markey released the responses to his letters, noting that “in 2011, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies made more than 1.3 million requests of wireless carriers for the cell phone records of consumers.” According to the carriers’ responses, in 2011 AT&T received over 260,000 requests from law enforcement agencies for customers’ phone usage data. Of those 260,000 requests, over 79,000 were “exigent requests”, meaning no court order or subpoena was obtained before the information was provided by the wireless carrier. The responses also showed that the carriers are being compensated for providing this information to law enforcement. For example, AT&T received more than $8.2 million in 2011 for collecting and submitting customer phone usage information to law enforcement. The July 16 letter is available here.
  • On July 17, 2012, Free Press announced its opposition to a rumored AT&T plan to charge customers extra for using Apple’s video VoIP app, FaceTime, over cellular data in the next generation of Apple’s iPhone software. The rumor has been discussed on an Apple-focused blog entry available here. Free Press said such a move would “almost certainly violate the open Internet rules.” AT&T has neither confirmed nor denied these rumors, stating that it and Apple are currently working to get the technology stabilized and it was too early to discuss pricing. Free Press’s statement is available here.
  • Reply Comments on the privacy and security practices of mobile wireless service providers are due July 30, 2012. CC Docket No. 96-115. The text of the Public Notice is available here.