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As Taxpayers Foot the Bill, Phone Companies Make Big Bucks Charging Uncle Sam to Wiretap Customers

Wiretapping has become a multi-million-dollar market, according to a new report.
 
 
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Phone companies don't do anything for free, including allowing the government to wiretap their customers.  According to CBS, phone companies have made government spying a multi-million-dollar market funded by US taxpayers, many of whom are obviously customers at companies like AT&T and Verizon.

Charging Uncle Sam $775 per wiretap connection, plus a $500 wiretapping monthly rate, Verizon has the steepest fee, but A&T is not far behind.  A wiretap with that carrier will cost the government (taxpayers) a $325 "activation fee," plus $10 a day for maintenance. Smaller companies, like Cricket and US Cellular, offer more affordable, $250 wiretaps.

CBS adds:

Meanwhile, email records like those amassed by the National Security Agency through a program revealed by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden probably were collected for free or very cheaply. Facebook says it doesn't charge the government for access. And while Microsoft, Yahoo and Google won't say how much they charge, the American Civil Liberties Union found that email records can be turned over for as little as $25.

Thanks to phone companies sent to Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) last year, we know a bit more about phone companies, including the estimated $24 million AT&T received in wiretapping fees from 2007-2011. Despite high fees, Verizon claims to let some wiretaps go for free, and collected between $3 million and $5 million a year during the same time. 

Read more at CBS

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne

 
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