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How will privacy and security concerns be balanced?

President Obama’s support for surveillance predates his election. I believe that he has assessed the pros and cons of surveillance and concluded that it is necessary. The question then is how it is to be regulated, so that that negative outcomes can be minimized. One possible path is a variation of the FISA oversight solution, but with greater transparency. This may be the path being explored by Senator Markey, perhaps one of the most well informed US legislators on telecom and ICT matters.

Last year, Edward J. Markey, then a member of the House of Representatives, asked the country’s major cellphone carriers to disclose how many data requests they received from federal and local law enforcement agencies. More than one million in 2011 alone, they said, revealing for the first time how ubiquitous cellphone records had become in criminal investigations.

Now a member of the Senate, Mr. Markey is asking for this year’s numbers and with more details. What exactly does the government seek from the carriers, he wants to know. How often do they ask for cellphone tower dumps, location data, content of text messages, browsing history and so on. How many of those requests did the companies comply with and how many did they deny and why?

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