Книга: Code 2.0

Telephones: Part 2

Telephones: Part 2

Four years after Congress enacted CALEA, the FBI petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to enhance even further government’s power to regulate. Among the amendments the FBI proposed was a regulation designed to require disclosure of the locations of individuals using cellular phones by requiring the phone companies to report the cell tower from which the call was served.[12] Cellular phone systems need this data to ensure seamless switching between transmitters. But beyond this and billing, the phone companies have no further need for this information.

The FBI, however, has interests beyond those of the companies. It would like that data made available whenever it has a “legitimate law enforcement reason” for requesting it. The proposed amendment to CALEA would require the cellular company to provide this information, which is a way of indirectly requiring that it write its code to make the information retrievable.[13]

The original motivation for this requirement was reasonable enough: Emergency service providers needed a simple way to determine where an emergency cellular phone call was coming from. Thus, revealing location data was necessary, at least in those cases. But the FBI was keen to extend the reach of location data beyond cases where someone was calling 911, so they pushed to require the collection of this information whenever a call is made.

So far, the FBI has been successful in its requests with the regulators but less so with courts. But the limits the courts have imposed simply require the FBI to meet a high burden of proof to get access to the data. Whatever the standard, the effect of the regulation has been to force cell phone companies to build their systems to collect and preserve a kind of data that only aids the government.

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