Breaking News
Home / Constitution / South Carolina Police Grab Innocent Cell User’s Data Through ‘Tower Dump’

South Carolina Police Grab Innocent Cell User’s Data Through ‘Tower Dump’

Sheriffs in Richland County, South Carolina are currently defending the use of a controversial investigation method that grants them access to thousands of cell phone user’s data.

The technique, known as a “Tower Dump,” allows law enforcement to request all call, text and data transmissions from any specific time period from a cell tower’s provider. Search warrants obtained by WLTX News uncovered Richland County Sheriffs use of the technique during several cases including a 2011 vehicle break-in outside a sheriff’s home.

Although police must obtain and present a search warrant to cell providers in order to access the data, the amount of information gathered, especially on those not suspected of a crime, presents a clear constitutional violation.

“To turn over everybody’s telephone data to the police unrelated to any suspicion of crime, I think that’s an unreasonable search and seizure,” First Amendment attorney Jay Bender told WLTX. “I don’t think that’s permitted by the Constitution.”

Under South Carolina evidence retention laws, if a suspect is convicted of a crime in which a Tower Dump was used, police can hold onto all information gathered for up to seven years, including the data of all innocent cell users.

According to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, innocent cell users have nothing to fear but apparently wave their rights once their data connects to a cell tower.

“Somebody’s innocent phone tower data, we don’t need that, we don’t want it, we don’t care for it,” Sheriff Leon Lott said. “We’re not infringing on their rights. When they use that telephone they understand that that information is going to go to a tower.”

South Carolina resident and counter-terrorism consultant Keith Pounds says he supports Tower Dumps, but argues that legal constraints regarding the technology’s use by law enforcement is shaky at best.

“Inform us or at least those couple of hundred or couple of thousand people, innocent people, inform them that hey, we acquired your information for this particular crime. We’re going to purge the data and get rid of it,” Pounds said.

Currently, information on the number of law enforcement agencies using Tower Dumps is unknown, but many suspect the use is wide-spread. Unfortunately, Tower Dumps are only one of many techniques slowly chipping away at the Fourth Amendment.

Just last month, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing revealed a 2010 NSA pilot project that used cellphone towers to map peoples’ locations unknowingly, providing yet another example of the dangers of unchecked surveillance powers.

Other cell phone data harvesting techniques used by law enforcement were uncovered earlier this month in Seattle, where a Homeland Security funded mesh network was found to be recording mobile device users’ information, including the last 1,000 places visited. Exclusive documents obtained by Storyleak and Infowars revealed a multitude of local and federal agencies tied into the mesh network, allowing groups such as the Seattle Fusion Center to track unsuspecting residents.

Share Button

About Mikael Thalen

Mikael Thalen is an investigative journalist covering foreign policy, information security and digital surveillance. His reports have been cited by sites such as the New York Times, Computerworld, International Business Times and the Drudge Report. How to contact Mikael securely: https://keybase.io/mikaelthalen

Check Also

Software Flaw Exposed Facebook Moderators’ Info to Suspected Terrorists

A flaw in software used by Facebook to moderate offensive content exposed more than 1,000 ...

10 comments

  1. In the sixties and seventies there was all sorts of court cases about the 'right to privacy' and all kinds of case law about the 'expectation of privacy'.

    And the ACLU does nothing about this.

    Fascism is an ugly word, but what we face – no other word fits quite as well.

  2. Actual Text of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution
    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
    The last part clearly states you can't jut grab and hold Everything even from the person you are searching, far from the case we have here of everything from everyone.

    What we would seem to have here by common sense if a clear civil rights violation as defined by the constitution.

  3. Yes, LEON we know how a cell phone works; however, that does not give authorities the right to hang on to info NOT relevant to the investigation at hand!!! FOR 7 YEARS… period as Obummer would say

  4. The other best thing about solar lights or led solar
    lights is that theyhave dawn and dusk sensors which give you idea when to
    turn on and off. To attain that, we need the right furniture both indoors and outdoors to add a classy elegant touch.
    Other finish options are to paint or stain the wood.

  5. The governments associate degree relevant sectors to make an education and social surroundings during which students are treated equally to supply access for equal rights in education. Browse our website to write your papers.

  6. Wow, it is very innocent situation, it need a lot of time to think about!

  7. Very good to visit here, Great website for instagram users. These websites are very useful as it contains helpful information
    for Instagram users, as this mentioned website provide hack for getting followers for any particular Instagram account.
    These followers are real and active online.get free followers instagram Now get unlimited Instagram followers for free without any download or survey.
    Visit to know more in details.

  8. I believe that secondary data research is best in all ways because it provide authentic results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *