EPIC Obtains Number of Location Data Requests from U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware

February 22, 2021

The Department of Justice has, after more than three years, finally begun to respond to EPIC's request for cell phone surveillance orders issued by federal prosecutors. EPIC first requested copies of the orders in 2017 and then filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department in 2018 when the agency failed to respond. The agency has now begun issuing responses from 5 of its U.S. Attorneys' Offices. The first response is from the District of Delaware, and shows that from 2016-2019 the prosecutors in that office had 150 applications and orders for cell phone location data under § 2703(d). Over that same period the attorneys handled 351 criminal cases. EPIC is still waiting for responses from 4 of the agency's other prosecutors' offices. EPIC will maintain a comparative table as each district releases more information. Prosecutors do not currently release any comprehensive or uniform data about their surveillance of cell phone location data. In contrast, the Administrative Office for the U.S. Courts releases detailed reports each year about the use of federal wiretap authority. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 in Carpenter v. United States that collection of cell phone location data without a warrant violated the Fourth Amendment. The case is EPIC v. DOJ, No. 18-1814 (D.D.C).

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