Overview[edit | edit source]

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, law enforcement must obtain a court order under 18 U.S.C. §2703(d) (2703(d) order) to compel a provider to disclose more detailed records about a customer’s or subscriber’s use of services, such as the following:

  1. Account activity logs that reflect what Internet protocol (IP) addresses the subscriber visited over time.
  2. Addresses of others from and to whom the subscriber exchanged e-mail.
  3. Buddy lists.

Law enforcement can also use a 2703(d) order to compel a cellular telephone service provider to turn over, in real time, records showing the cell-site location information for calls made from a subscriber’s cell phone. These records provide more information about a subscriber’s use of the system than those available by subpoena, but they do not include the content of the communications.

A Federal magistrate or district court with jurisdiction over the offense under investiga­tion may issue a 2703(d) order. State court judges authorized by the law of the State to enter orders authorizing the use of a pen/trap device may also issue 2703(d) orders. The application must offer “specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that . . . the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

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