Without court orders of any sort, the New York City police have gotten access to "a trove of telephone logs," reports The New York Times's Joseph Goldstein. In a somewhat frightening twist, it takes more paperwork to get a thief's cell records than it takes to get the victim's. Here's how it works:
Police need a subpoena to get access to the phone logs of the person who did the stealing, which makes sense because those could help solve the crime. (Though, often they don't, say detectives.) But in that process, the NYPD, without additional warrants or subpoenas or any of that, can see all the happenings on that stolen phone. Sometimes phone companies even give up information associated with the victim's new number, which is a little bit unsettling, right? Civil Rights Lawyer Norman Siegal agrees. "There is absolutely no legitimate purpose for doing this. If I’m an innocent New Yorker, why should any of my information be in a police database," he tells Goldstein. Also, it doesn't quite make sense that law enforcement would hold on to the information after the case is closed, either. Police won't say how many records they have hostage. But phone companies got 1.5 billion of these requests in 2011 alone. So, probably a lot? T-Mobile responded to almost 300 in January alone.