T-Mobile has revealed an uptick in the number of demands for data it receives from the government.
The cellular giant quietly posted its 2017 transparency report on August 14, revealing a 12 percent increase in the number of overall data demands it responded to compared to the previous year.
The report said the company responded to 219,377 subpoenas, an 11 percent rise on 2017. These demands were issued by federal agencies and do not require any judicial oversight. The company also responded to 55,372 court orders, a 13 percent rise, and 27,203 warrants, a rise of 19 percent.
But the number of wiretap orders — which allow police to listen in to calls in real time — went down by half on the previous year.
A spokesperson for T-Mobile told TechCrunch that the figures reflect a “typical increase of legal demands across the board” and that the increases are “consistent with past years.”
Although the results reveal more requests for customer data, the transparency report did not say how many customers were affected.
T-Mobile has 77 million users as of its second-quarter earnings.
Several tech companies began publishing how many government requests for customer data they received since Google’s debut report in 2010. But it was only after the Edward Snowden disclosures in 2013 that revealed mass surveillance by the National Security Agency when tech companies and telcos began regularly publishing transparency reports, seen as an effort to counter the damaging claims that companies helped the government spy.
T-Mobile became the last major cell carrier to issue a transparency report two years later in 2015.
The company also said that it responded to 64,266 requests by law enforcement for customers’ historical cell site data. That data became the focal point of the U.S. vs. Carpenter case earlier this year, in which the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must obtain a warrant for historical cell and location data. That figure is expected to fall during the 2018 reporting year as the new bar to obtain a court-signed warrant is higher.
T-Mobile also said it received 46,395 requests to track customers’ real-time location, and 4,855 warrants and orders for tower dumps, which police can use to obtain information on all the nearby devices connected to a cell tower during a particular period of time.
But the number of national security requests received declined during 2017.
The number of national security letters used by federal agents to obtain call records in secret and the number of orders granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court were each below 1,000 requests for the full year.
Tech companies and telcos are highly restricted in how they can report the number of classified orders demanding customer data in secret, and can only report in ranges of requests they received.
Since the Freedom Act was signed into law in 2015, the Justice Department began allowing companies to report in narrower ranges.
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