There has been interest on Capitol Hill and in the press lately about law enforcement requests for information from telephone companies.  Scott Blake Harris wrote a blog post to help clarify what we do and do not do. Here is a FAQ with additional information.

Over the past five years, how many requests from law enforcement has Neustar processed?
During the five-year period encompassing 2007 through 2011, Neustar processed roughly 57,000 subpoena/court order requests from law enforcement on the behalf of our clients, of which about 12,500 were received in 2011. During this same period Neustar processed roughly 400 lawful intercept requests.  By way of comparison, in 2011, the nine largest carriers processed about 1.3 million such requests.

Does Neustar deny any of the requests it receives?
Yes, we will deny requests for information when the proper documentation is not provided.  For example, we have not provided information where:  The language of the legal process is too broad or confusing to allow for proper identification of the records being requested; the legal process was not properly executed; the type of legal process served was not sufficient to obtain the records requested (for example, information that requires a warrant issued by a court after a showing of probable cause will not be provided if we are presented with a subpoena); or the identifying information in the legal process is incorrect or inconsistent with the carrier’s records.

How does Neustar handle these requests?
First, Neustar works with our clients to develop and implement client-specific policies and procedures needed to ensure compliance with lawful demands for subscriber records.  Neustar reviews each request for legal validity, and rejects legally deficient requests.  We have internal and client specific escalation procedures in place to handle questions about the legal sufficiency of, or legal standard applicable to any specific law enforcement request.

Consistent with our client’s policies and procedures, once Neustar has validated a request, we retrieve the responsive records, redact the records to conform to the scope of the request, format the records for delivery, create a certificate of authenticity, and perform a final review of the data before delivering the information to the requesting agency.

In a criminal investigation, where a law enforcement agency seeks records or surveillance on an emergency basis, Neustar processes the request, consistent with a client’s policies and procedures, under a special emergency procedure designed to provide the timely and vital assistance law enforcement needs to deal with situations involving danger of death or serious physical injury to a person.   Neustar requires that law enforcement fill out an emergency declaration form consistent with federal law to assist in this process.

How does Neustar handle cell phone tracking requests from law enforcement?
None of Neustar’s wireless carrier clients can, nor does Neustar on their behalf, “ping” or geolocate a handset device at the request of law enforcement.

Isn’t it dangerous for one company to know everyone’s phone number?
The phone number information that we have as the numbering administrator is for routing calls and text messages to the right phone network.  What we don’t have is any information about the consumer using the phone number – not any information about the subscribers themselves, their locations, or the content of their calls.  All phone companies have – and need – the phone number information we administer in order to keep everyone connected to everyone else.  Neustar ensures that all phone companies have the same information about the country’s phone numbers.  In this way, when you make a call from a phone on the AT&T network, for example, AT&T needs to know to which carrier to route your call.  We’re the company that informs the AT&T network so your call can be completed.