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T-Mobile quietly reported a sharp rise in police demands for cell tower data

T-Mobile has reported a small decline in the number of government data requests it receives, according to its latest transparency report, quietly published this week.
The third-largest cell giant in the U.S. reported 459,989 requests during 2018, down by a little over 1% on the year earlier. That includes an overall drop in subpoenas, court orders and pen registers and trap and trace devices used to record the incoming and outgoing callers; however, the number of search warrants issued went up by 27% and wiretaps increased by almost 3%.
The company rejected 85,201 requests, an increase of 7% on the year prior.
But the number of requests for historical call detail records and cell site information, which can be used to infer a subscriber’s location, has risen significantly.
For 2018, the company received 70,224 demands for historical call data, up by more than 9% on the year earlier.
Historical cell site location data allows law enforcement to understand which cell towers carried a call, text message or data, and therefore a subscriber’s historical real-time location at any given particular time. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this data was protected and required a warrant before a company is forced to turn it over. The so-called “Carpenter” decision was expected to result in a fall in the number of requests made because the bar to obtaining the records is far higher.
T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request asking what caused the increase.
T-Mobile quietly reported a sharp rise in police demands for cell tower data
Call records requests by police. (2017 above, 2018 below). Source: T-Mobile.
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