In-Depth Analysis

Location Demands

Our “Location Demands” category breaks out the number of civil and criminal legal demands we received by the type of location information (historic or real-time) demanded. Demands for location information seek precise GPS coordinates of the device or call detail records that reflect the location of any cell site processing a call. We also get demands for cell tower searches, which ask us to provide all telephone numbers registered on a particular cell tower for a certain period of time. We do not keep track of the number of telephone numbers provided to law enforcement in connection with cell tower searches.

A single cell tower demand may cover multiple towers. We disclose both the total number of demands and the total number of cell tower searches. For instance, if we received one court order that included two cell towers, we count that as one demand for two searches. For the 1,161 cell tower demands during this reporting period, we performed 2,700 searches. The average time period that law enforcement demanded for a cell tower search was 2 hours and 31 minutes for this reporting period.

Like all companies, we are required by law to provide information to law enforcement and other government entities by complying with court orders, subpoenas, and lawful discovery requests. In all cases, we ensure that requests for assistance are valid and that we act in compliance with the law. On June 22, 2018, the United States Supreme Court provided additional guidance regarding the process for obtaining cell-site location information. In Carpenter v. United States, the Court held that, “the government must generally obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before acquiring [cell-site location] records.” Previously, law enforcement authorities in some states could demand historic cell-site location information with a court order issued under a different standard. We have always, except in emergency situations, required a judicial order to produce location information and, in light of the ruling, we will require a search warrant based on the probable cause standard for all demands for real-time or historical location information, again except in emergency situations.

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