Wired reports on a troubling database of private phone records created by Virginia police, the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network:
The database, which affects unknown numbers of people, contains phone records that at least five police agencies in southeast Virginia have been collecting since 2012 and sharing with one another with little oversight. Some of the data appears to have been obtained by police from telecoms using only a subpoena, rather than a court order or probable-cause warrant. Other information in the database comes from mobile phones seized from suspects during an arrest.
The five cities participating in the program, known as the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network, are Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Suffolk, according to the memorandum of understanding that established the database. The effort is being led in part by the Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, which is responsible for a “telephone analysis room” in the city of Hampton, where the database is maintained. […]
The legality of the database is in question, however, and at least one law enforcement agency has declined to participate in the program due to legal concerns. […]
The system was set up with virtually no public debate or concern expressed by elected officials, who approved resolutions authorizing the database. Hardly anyone outside of the five participating police agencies knows about the sharing network, though its creation was not kept secret.
All over the U.S., local police agencies are collecting vast stockpiles of private information from people—some of it from people who have not been convicted of crimes but were merely stopped by police.