Today, modern communications technologies generate far more, and far more private, information about us than ever before. In the recent past, police would use “pen register” and “trap and trace” devices to find out which phone numbers called each other. Today, the internet-connected services we use generate information far more revealing than phone numbers. This information includes not just who we speak to and for how long, but also where we are, what we talk about, what we read, and what we research online. Now, the federal government uses its statutory pen trap authority to intercept this more revealing data as “dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling” or “DRAS” information. DRAS information includes not only phone call data, but also the “to” and “from” addresses of email messages, records about instant message conversations, data associated with social networking identities, and at least some information about the websites you visit.
This bill would expand the definition of pen register collection from the capture of phone numbers to DRAS information more broadly. It purportedly harmonizes Wisconsin’s pen trap law with the corresponding federal statute. However, the bill not only replicates problems with the federal law but also differs in ways that would leave Wisconsinites with even lower protections from privacy intrusions by local law enforcement than they have from the federal government.