AT&T accused of selling customer data to US police

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

Leaked documents show operator made "millions" from supplying data to local law enforcement in project Hemisphere

AT&T has made “millions of dollars” by secretly selling customer data to local law enforcement, according to documents leaked on Monday.

The project, called Hemisphere, sees AT&T selling metadata collected on its network to local police departments investigating a range of crimes, including everything from murder to Medicaid fraud.

Access to Hemisphere costs local police between $100,000 to more than $1 million a year, according to the documents, which were revealed by the Daily Beast on 24 October. It requires an administrative subpoena rather than a search warrant, which must be issued by a judge.

In 2013, it was revealed that AT&T was working with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in a partnership aimed at tackling the narcotics industry. With Hemisphere, officials could search trillions of call records and analyse mobile data to assess where a target may be located.

The extent of Hemisphere, which has been in operation since 2007, had previously been kept under wraps due to an agreement between the operator and law enforcement which meant police must not risk disclosing its use in public or in court.

Police would take leads from Hemisphere, but construct cases separately, protecting the partnership with AT&T from scrutiny, according to the Daily Beast report.

A spokesperson for AT&T said: “Like other communications companies, if a government agency seeks customer call records through a subpoena, court order or other mandatory legal process, we are required by law to provide this non-content information, such as the phone numbers and the date and time of calls.”

The report comes as AT&T has agreed a deal to buy Time Warner for $85.5 billion, an acquisition that has already came in for fierce criticism, with both presidential candidates expressing concerns about the agreement.