New documents uncovered by The Daily Beast show that AT&T has been actively analyzing and tracking the call records and cellular data of its customers–and selling the information to the U.S. government.
This program, dubbed Project Hemisphere by the telecom giant, was developed by AT&T independently, but the information gathered through the program has been sold to the government without a warrant and at the cost of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.
Although Project Hemisphere was first revealed in a New York Times story in 2013, the actual extent of the program has just come to light. Originally purported by the Justice Department to be used only by the DEA to hunt down people selling illicit substances, Project Hemisphere has supplied the government with information on investigations into violent crimes, Medicaid fraud and a litany of other incidents.
AT&T has freely provided this information without a warrant, but the company did ask that law enforcement officials not publicly disclose the information received through the project, allowing AT&T to keep its practice of selling customers’ information secret.
While telecom companies like AT&T are legally required to provide their records to the government on request, AT&T proactively suggested individuals for the government to investigate. Before Project Hemisphere, AT&T had cooperated with the government to provide surveillance as far back as 2003.
AT&T has only commented that they are complying with the law and offered no further details.