Wireless carriers keep your location data for years and provide it to the police

The country’s largest wireless carriers not only know where you are every time you make a phone call or use your data connection, but they routinely hold onto that location information for months and in some cases years, providing it to law enforcement whether you like it or not, according to carrier letters made public last week by the Federal Communications Commission.

From data about which cell towers your smartphone has been communicating with to your specific GPS coordinates, your smartphone constantly gives off a tremendous amount of information on your whereabouts, the letters from AT&T, Verizon and other carriers show.

For example, T-Mobile retains granular latitude and longitude coordinates of devices on its network for up to 90 days, and less-granular cell-site location data for up to two years, the company told the FCC in a letter dated Aug. 3. Verizon said it holds cell-site data for up to one year, while AT&T said it may retain cell-site data for up to five years.