Surveillance Tools at Issue in Lawsuit

By Chad Bray, The Wall Street Journal


The American Civil Liberties Union will be in federal court Tuesday as it seeks to force the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies to detail how often they use surveillance tools that capture the email addresses contacted, phone numbers called and websites visited by a person.

Such tools are known as pen register and trace-and-track technology, and while the government believes they're critical for law enforcement, privacy advocates are concerned about the lack of transparency on how often the searches are used.


Paul M. Schwartz, a law professor and director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, said the use of pen registers and trap-and-trace technology is likely up because the public is spending more time on smartphones and the Internet. It's not like the old days when an individual had a phone at their office and home, not on their persons at all times, he said.The data available to agencies is much broader than when investigators tracked phone calls to and from a single line, he said. "It's not surprising they're going to make use of it," he said.

"We're online more. We're engaged in telecommunication many, many more hours a day," he said.