The takeaway for privacy aficionados disturbed by the New York Times report on police amassing a trove of call logs from cell phones reported stolen is that Sprint Nextel is the company least likely to hand over call records without the customer’s knowledge. The story is that police are gradually building up a huge database of call logs acquired through subpoenas they send to cell phone companies when a customer reports a phone stolen. Those call logs are meant to lead police to the cell phone thief, but once cops have them, they could potentially use them for any other investigation.
According to the Times, detectives are instructed to subpoena AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Metro-PCS when phones operating under those providers are reported stolen. “With these carriers, the police do not generally seek the victims’ consent; in fact, the subpoenas are executed without the victims’ knowledge.” But for stolen Sprint Nextel phones, “detectives are instructed to ask the victim to fill out consent forms that authorize Sprint Nextel to release call records and location information to the police.” There’s no explanation for why Sprint is the exception, but on the face of things, it seems that would be the company of choice for the theft-prone privacy lover.