The Daily Beast certainly thinks so. According to a report published on the news website just this week, the second biggest wireless carrier in the United States has an initiative called Project Hemisphere that apparently does surveillance of the warrantless kind, and AT&T is earning millions out of taxpayers’ money in the process.
Project Hemisphere first came to the fore when the New York Times reported about it around three years ago. At that time, the project was said to be merely a means for monitoring anti-drug operations in a number of states in America. But if the new report from the Daily Beast is true, then Project Hemisphere has essentially expanded into something that also does surveillance for a diverse range of criminal activities, including murder and even health care fraud.
The information that AT&T has in its disposal is certainly extensive, especially when it comes to the communications habits of consumers. It is no surprise that crime investigators would jump at the opportunity to gain access to whatever data the wireless carrier has. With AT&T’s help, investigators can determine when somebody made a phone call, and whom they are calling.
And the mobile operator’s reach is truly expansive. As one of the major wireless carriers in the US, AT&T owns a vast array of landline switches and cellular towers across the country. And it is quite possible that the company has in possession copious amounts of information related to phone related activities of consumers dating back decades. This includes every phone call made, text message sent, Skype chat, and other forms of communication that has passed through its infrastructure. Now the law dictates that such data be made available upon request with a warrant. But it seems that AT&T has decided to make some money out of selling users’ phone metadata, and possibly, their personal information as well.
AT&T, for its part, was quick in responding to the Daily Beast in order to clear some things up. According to the telecoms giant, it keeps no special database, or anything that remotely resembles what the Daily Beast has described. No here is where it gets interesting -- the Daily Beast claims that it got its information from leaked AT&T documents. According to these documents, the wireless carrier specifically requests that its name be omitted from judicial proceedings. If AT&T is truly confident that it did nothing wrong, then why would it want to protect its name?
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