I posted earlier about this article which detailed some possible issues with technology and warrantless searches. One thing I neglected to detail was the cost comparison of search methods.
The authors of the article attempt to calculate the costs of different search methodologies. One of the methods chosen for surveillance is to use cell provider's own networks to access location data about a subscriber. This data is not normally recorded for long periods, but this recording can be enabled by the carrier. By law, the carrier can recoup reasonable costs for this service from law enforcement. The breakdowns of costs for three of the major carriers is detailed below.
I don't know where the data is for Verizon, but I'd love to know what it is. In any case, note the huge disparity in costs among the carriers. Would the government be more selective in it's use of this technology if the costs were higher? More importantly, is the potential suspect's carrier a consideration when choosing whether to enable this sort of tracking technology? Obviously, there's a huge delta in the 30 day $30 cost of tracking a Sprint subscriber's location and the $2800 it costs to track a T-Mobile subscriber. Would having this data influence your choice of carriers? Based on this chart alone, T-Mobile is looking pretty attractive to me right now.
I have to point out that I am not "anti-law enforcement." They risk their lives so I can sleep soundly at night (and I'm grateful). However, I do worry about covert surveillance and fishing expeditions. There's clearly a balance between order and privacy, but I believe technology will unfairly shift that balance to the government.