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 and 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 893 cell tower demands during this reporting period, we performed 2,367 searches.  The average time period that law enforcement demanded for a cell tower search was 2 hours and 32 minutes for this reporting period.

Except in emergency situations, we require the most stringent legal standard — a search warrant or probable cause court order — for all demands for real-time precise location information. The standards vary for other types of location demands, including those for non-precise location information and historic location information. In those cases, we require a general court order, search warrant or probable cause court order, depending on the applicable state and federal laws.

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