When Edward Snowden released documents revealing that U.S. citizens were being spied on by their own government, many hoped it would signal a serious change in how personal information is handled in the U.S. Apparently, it did nothing of the sort.
According to recent documents published by The Daily Beast, AT&T has been involved in spying on citizens under a program called Project Hemisphere.
Project Hemisphere was first uncovered by the New York Times in 2013. At the time, it was described as a partnership between AT&T and the U.S. government solely for investigating drug trafficking. Now, it seems as though the project was used for a range of different things — including homicide investigations and Medicaid fraud. All done without a warrant of any kind.
On top of that, it seems as though AT&T is making a profit off of these spying practices, and ultimately it is taxpayers who are paying for it. That is because the company goes above and beyond what is required of it and the government pays for it.
The reports certainly come at an interesting time for AT&T, which just recently announced its acquisition of Time Warner. Recently the company’s close ties with the government have been heavily scrutinized, and that is only likely to continue, given the recent report. For example, the company has around 100 registered lobbyists on its payroll, according to reports. Some of those lobbyists are former members of Congress.
AT&T is unique compared to other companies because of how much data it can collect. The company owns over three-quarters of the landline switches in the U.S. and has the second largest share of wireless infrastructure, coming second only to Verizon. Not only that, but AT&T retains cell tower data going back to July 2008, which is quite a bit longer than other carriers and phone companies. For example, Verizon retains records for one year and Sprint for 18 months, according to The Daily Beast.