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Utah’s warrantless subpoena law defied, but untested
Privacy » XMission balks at warrantless law, but most Internet providers turn over information on suspected child predators.

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Lee Livingston, CFO at Fibernet, an ISP in Orem, has questions about Utah’s administrative subpoena law, although he hasn’t gone as far as Ashdown in defying them when presented.

"It isn’t that we don’t want to help" in criminal investigations that might involve child abuse or exploitation, Livingston said. "I don’t know that we have, in most cases, a good idea why they’re seeking the information. ... In general, they are pretty close-lipped about why they are seeking information."

At a glance

Top five state administrative subpoena users

1,060 » Utah attorney general’s office

64 » Weber County attorney

34 » Salt Lake County district attorney

27 » Washington County attorney

11 > > Layton City attorney

Source: Utah attorney general, issued since 2009.

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Livingston’s questions come at a time of new disclosures about the sweeping intelligence efforts by the National Security Agency collecting metadata from phone companies and ISPs. People worldwide are debating the values of privacy vs. security.

"I think everybody’s a little nervous right now about the power of government and what kinds of actions that they’re taking," Livingston said,

Crucial tool » Utah law enforcement agencies aren’t revealing much detail about the use and effectiveness of administrative subpoenas beyond commending them as a crucial tool in investigating cybercrimes against children.

"I don’t want to over-dramatize the issue, but in my mind, a single child at risk justifies great urgency even if it’s only one a year," Barlow told lawmakers recently.

Jessica Farnsworth, commander of Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, highlighted just such a case — one in which a Utah girl was kidnapped and taken to California.

"She was literally about an hour away from being taken down into Mexico and seeing the end," Farnsworth told a legislative panel. Instead, armed with information obtained quickly through an administrative subpoena, the victim was rescued.

But when Judiciary Interim Committee Senate Chairman Mark Madsen asked Barlow for information on the number of arrests and convictions stemming from the warrantless subpoenas, he said such information isn’t collected.

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So no one can say how many of the 1,207 subpoenas issued resulted in criminal cases. Barlow told The Tribune that there’s no compelling reason to compile such information.

"There is no operational value for us to know that correlation," Barlow said in an interview.

Tanderson@sltrib.comTwitter: @TaylorWAnderson

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