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AT&T, Verizon Price Lists for Wiretaps
$75 an Hour to View Entire Tower's Usage
by Karl Bode 08:17AM Wednesday Apr 04 2012
An ACLU document dump earlier this week highlighted not only how there's really no rules being followed by small police stations when it comes to wiretaps, but again proved that providing this information to law enforcement can be quite profitable for carriers. As people keep digging through the documents they're finding no limit of goodies, including the amount companies like AT&T and Verizon get paid for access to user data. Some of this data was unveiled in previous leaks of this type, but it's interesting reading all the same:
quote:
To wiretap a customer’s phone, T-Mobile charges law enforcement a flat fee of $500 per target. Sprint’s wireless carrier Sprint Nextel requires police pay $400 per “market area” and per “technology” as well as a $10 per day fee, capped at $2,000. AT&T charges a $325 activation fee, plus $5 per day for data and $10 for audio. Verizon charges a $50 administrative fee plus $700 per month, per target.
If you're not interested in getting too specific, perhaps you'd like to pay for a "tower dump"?
quote:
All four telecom firms also offer so-called “tower dumps” that allow police to see the numbers of every user accessing a certain cell tower over a certain time at an hourly rate. AT&T charges $75 per tower per hour, with a minimum of two hours. Verizon charges between $30 and $60 per hour for each cell tower. Sprint demands $150 per cell tower per hour, and Sprint charges $50 per tower, seemingly without an hourly rate.
Verizon insists to Forbes that they don't "make a profit from any of the data requests from law enforcement." AT&T wouldn't answer Forbes' question, only directing them to a privacy policy that (quite falsely) insists "we do not sell your personal information to anyone for any purpose. Period."

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cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

What circumstances is a tower dump required

I'm not naive enough to think that wholesale wiretaps don't occur. And while I don't agree with it I can understand the argument about three letter agencies monitoring communications in general. But under what circumstances does an hourly-rate tower dump help any law enforcement agency?

I guess maybe if they know a particular suspect is guaranteed to be in an area at a given time but they don't know what phone number he/she is using. But it would seem to be a rare occurrence to get something useful that way.

dib22

join:2002-01-27
Kansas City, MO

Re: What circumstances is a tower dump required

The problem is they keep removing the oversight component.

They can already tap legally... they just don't want that 3rd party checksum there... which should make us worry that they are up to no good.

As if it's ok for them to break the law, just not the citizens they work for

Thaler
Premium
join:2004-02-02
Los Angeles, CA
kudos:3

Re: What circumstances is a tower dump required

Question, wouldn't the legality of such wire taps be a problem in court? I'm pretty sure one can't use this in a trial without providing information as to how they acquired the data. Without a warrant, even the most damning of evidence would get thrown out:

»en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_of_t···ous_tree

nothing00

join:2001-06-10
Centereach, NY

Re: What circumstances is a tower dump required

Since they've already admitted to not putting this type of surveillance in police reports all they have to do is "independently" get another source of information.

"So officer, how did you come to find the evidence in a completely unrelated location far from where you typically work?"

"Well, I was out for the day and I tripped over it. Amazing right!"

nothing00

join:2001-06-10
Centereach, NY
I'm sure law enforcement will use the same argument they used with GPS tracking. "Well, we could put a person on it and tail them all day long." Ignoring the fact that technology now made it possible to do this wholesale for large numbers of people and undetected.

So in this case, "Well, we could arrange officers in a 100 foot grid and observe all people using a cell phone".

Unless of course they couldn't. Or someone who expected privacy in their own home was now being monitored. Or...

Yeah, warrantless tower dumps? This one is really messed up.

TheHelpful1
Premium
join:2002-01-11
Upper Marlboro, MD

Re: What circumstances is a tower dump required

said by nothing00:

I'm sure law enforcement will use the same argument they used with GPS tracking. "Well, we could put a person on it and tail them all day long." Ignoring the fact that technology now made it possible to do this wholesale for large numbers of people and undetected.

They can try, but the SCOTUS, when ruling against warrantless GPS tracking said that if a case comes before them on warantless cell phone tracking, they will shoot that down too. Kind of a cannonball warning shot to law enforcement to keep things legit or they will break out the newspaper and beat the police like a bad dog who crapped all over your civil rights carpet.
--
"My weakness is that I care too much"
Expand your moderator at work

MxxCon

join:1999-11-19
Brooklyn, NY

1 recommendation

Police monitoring a drug house and want to hear/know about all the phone calls coming to/out of it...?
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[Sig removed by Administrator: signature can not exceed 20GB]
Crookshanks

join:2008-02-04
Binghamton, NY

Re: What circumstances is a tower dump required

said by MxxCon:

Police monitoring a drug house and want to hear/know about all the phone calls coming to/out of it...?

This.

A tower "dump" (which it isn't really; they are just monitoring which mobiles are connected to that tower) wouldn't be very effective for tracking a single user. It could prove to be very effective at gaining insight into an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Thaler
Premium
join:2004-02-02
Los Angeles, CA
kudos:3

Re: What circumstances is a tower dump required

said by Crookshanks:

A tower "dump" (which it isn't really; they are just monitoring which mobiles are connected to that tower) wouldn't be very effective for tracking a single user. It could prove to be very effective at gaining insight into an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Unless you were to have tower "dump" requests of all towers within a target area. (ie. if LAPD paid for access to all towers in Los Angeles, it'd be a fair means to wiretap any citizen in the area).

Granted, each cell tower would cost ~$25k a year to get these access rights...so that'd be a large amount of change to get constant surveillance on a city of any size.
Crookshanks

join:2008-02-04
Binghamton, NY

Re: What circumstances is a tower dump required

said by Thaler:

Unless you were to have tower "dump" requests of all towers within a target area. (ie. if LAPD paid for access to all towers in Los Angeles, it'd be a fair means to wiretap any citizen in the area).

It's not a "wiretap" though, it's a list of the cell phones connected to a particular tower and which numbers they are calling/texting. It's more analogous to a pen register than a wiretap and quite probably necessary to investigate ongoing criminal enterprises in the era of mobile phones.

Mind you, I don't like it anymore than you do, but let's just be clear on what it is we are discussing. A law enforcement agency receiving the meta-data on calls and texts is quite different than that same agency receiving the actual content of those communicates.

Thaler
Premium
join:2004-02-02
Los Angeles, CA
kudos:3

Re: What circumstances is a tower dump required

Um, wasn't one of the option add-ons listed in the article to also get audio of the calls?
tmc8080

join:2004-04-24
Brooklyn, NY

1 recommendation

hackers

hackers do this for free already.. you don't even need a physical connection to the tower to do it..

firephoto
We the people
Premium
join:2003-03-18
Brewster, WA

Re: hackers

said by tmc8080:

hackers do this for free already.. you don't even need a physical connection to the tower to do it..

But it's a good distraction for the news to report about cops and telcos colluding to spy on customers. If you just point out one of the **A's are tapping phones directly you'll have the discussion turn crazy. Look at where the discussion about the secret AT&T closets is at these days. Long forgotten.

If it's possible it is happening even if you can't believe it.
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RR Conductor
NWP RR Inc.,serving NW CA
Premium
join:2002-04-02
Redwood Valley, CA
kudos:1

Sad.

Constitution, meet match.

G_Man

@sbcglobal.net

Pricing

That's not the price list I have in my office. Maybe you should try to get an updated pricing spreadsheet from each provider. Then you'll know what they charge Federal, State, and local law enforcement.
Also, from the previous days news topic...
The primary way law enforcement gets around having to submit a Court Order to the 'providers' is calling them up and saying the word "exigent" along with the wording that someone has been or is about to die or that a child has been kidnapped. Though the "providers" will require something after the fact.

morbo
Complete Your Transaction

join:2002-01-22
00000
Reviews:
·Charter

Disgusting

This is simply disgusting. Why don't they just auction the data off on eBay?

With AT&T and Verizon giving the NSA full access to every bit of data that hits their network, it's clear that telco knows the illusion of privacy is gone and is ready to make more cash for their bottom line.

Disgusting isn't strong enough.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

1 recommendation

Re: Disgusting

said by morbo:

it's clear that telco knows the illusion of privacy is gone and is ready to make more cash for their bottom line.

Privacy was gone long ago. I'm continually surprised that so many people believe the illusion.
dudeman456

join:2005-04-29
New York, NY

Federal Friend Carrier

The story seems missing information. This article must only cover localize Police issues, because there is only one specific carrier you would need to work with to listen to land lines, and cellular.
BiggA

join:2005-11-23
EARTH

I would be okay with it...

if they gave me a discount.

TheHelpful1
Premium
join:2002-01-11
Upper Marlboro, MD

Re: I would be okay with it...

I can see that. Then the people with nothing to hide would get a discount and the police wouldn't bother to track them. Then the criminals would ask for the discount to hide in this demographic. Then the police would be back to square one and the telcos getting less money. So....?
--
"My weakness is that I care too much"
BiggA

join:2005-11-23
EARTH

Re: I would be okay with it...

The Po-Po would still be paying. I wasn't really meaning that seriously, although if someone gave me a discount for signing a snoop waiver, sure, I'll go for it. I assume the FBI and NSA do voice to text on all US phone conversations and then analyze the resulting text files anyways.
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

There's a need but at what cost?

I don't dispute that there are times when gaining access to this information solves crimes and/or saves lives. Regardless of whether or not the current access rules are appropriate, I think the fees seem a bit steep.

Carriers already keep much of this information for billing. Granted, if not regulated to do so they might not keep more detailed information, such as a cell phone's path through the carrier's network and the last contact. However, collecting logs shouldn't consume significant back-haul bandwidth. If it does, they should be able to store and forward during off-peak hours when the bandwidth isn't used. Disk is cheap and likewise, building a secure web-system to access it shouldn't take long or cost much.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

1 recommendation

Re: There's a need but at what cost?

said by rradina:

Regardless of whether or not the current access rules are appropriate, I think the fees seem a bit steep.

How so? These are businesses that have costs. Why would you expect the businesses to bear to costs of requests made by the government...or anyone for that matter?
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

Re: There's a need but at what cost?

I don't expect them to bear the costs. Given the costs in the article, the fees seem too high. A long time ago before marriage and kids, I went from apartment to apartment. I always got whacked for $50 per line to establish service. That's excessive. If they have to roll a truck I understand the cost but entering a few lines of data into a provisioning system and then charging $50 is ridiculous. Eventually around year 2000 I think they reduced the fee to $35. I always found that telling since $50 was worth a lot more in 1985 than $35 in year 2000 but suddenly service prices went down, long distance fell through the floor and it no longer cost $50 to establish a new telephone line.

Likewise I think the fees they are charging law enforcement agencies is excessive. It's another one of those because they can and furthermore, most government bodies aren't too careful with how they spend tax-payer dollars.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: There's a need but at what cost?

It's partly "because they can", but more so that conducting these activities has real costs. One of the big reasons several ISPs are pushing back on doing the dirty work for copyright holders. If anything, one could hope that with a cost to obtain this info, law enforcement agencies might be deterred from willy-nilly requesting it. In the grand scheme of things, a few hundred dollars each month per person being investigated isn't that much at all.
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

Re: There's a need but at what cost?

From the Forbes article:

All four telecom firms also offer so-called “tower dumps” that allow police to see the numbers of every user accessing a certain cell tower over a certain time at an hourly rate. AT&T charges $75 per tower per hour, with a minimum of two hours. Verizon charges between $30 and $60 per hour for each cell tower. T-Mobile demands $150 per cell tower per hour, and Sprint charges $50 per tower, seemingly without an hourly rate.

For location data, the carrier firms offer automated tools that let police track suspects in real time. Sprint charges $30 per month per target to use its L-Site program for location tracking. AT&T’s E911 tool costs $100 to activate and then $25 a day. T-Mobile charges a much pricier $100 per day.



When service fees have extreme variance (example: $30/month to $100/day), it's hard to believe they are based on a realistic cost model. If they are, I would expect them to be considerably more consistent. Since they aren't, it leads me to believe they are pulling prices from you know where and charging whatever they want.

Excessive profit is not congruent with free enterprise/capitalism so this has nothing to do with an organization's "right" to charge whatever it wants. Arguably, law enforcement experiences monopolistic behavior with no recourse since they must deal with the target's carrier and pay whatever they demand. They cannot ask Sprint to provide data on a T-Mobile customer thereby creating a competitive situation.

I was impressed that the article mentioned Verizon did not charge a fee for emergencies. This is definitely an example of them being a good corporate citizen. However, I would not fault them if they did charge a reasonable fee, even in an emergency.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: There's a need but at what cost?

Once again, costs exist. I'm not suggesting that the carriers might not be milking the requests for more. As for your comparison, the difference in rates may have to do with the backend management systems. Without knowing the details and processes involved, we're all guessing about the fairness of these prices.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO
I would agree completely. However, I want to see the requirement for a warrant before passing off any of the information. Lacking that key part makes this entire thing a huge violation of privacy and a major spit in the face of the constitution and our rights as American people.