"And complaining about it has incurred a 'Go To Hell, Steve' surcharge. Wanna keep going?"
Sure, they're helping to crack important cases (up to and including murder), but that's only part of their shitty and expensive package deal -- which is so typically AT&T. Regional police and sheriffs have to pony up anywhere between $100,000 to a million bucks to get their hands on that sweet Hemisphere goodness. And to show how the costs can balloon, let's use Harris County, Texas as an example. Their first payment to AT&T in 2007 was about $78,000 for data access. They must have been thrilled with their purchase, too, because four years later, they happily forked over $940,000 for the same privilege. But it's all worth it to the cops, since buying information from AT&T means they don't need to bother with silly formalities like search warrants. All they have to present is an administrative subpoena, and that doesn't even require probable cause.
It's not just Texas that's taking advantage of this lucrative deal, either. Municipalities nationwide are lining up to make use of the unique opportunities Hemisphere can offer. And the expenditures are routinely paid for by Uncle Sam, using the same federal grant money that some namby-pamby types blame for creating over-militarized police departments.
"You wouldn't believe how much complaints about the meter maids have gone down since we replaced the golf carts with Bearcats."
So for all that squawking about the NSA spying on the populace and whatnot, it turns out that the private sector is all up in our business as well. In fact, the NSA has described AT&T as "highly collaborative" and exhibiting "an extreme willingness to help" when approached in regards to a working metadata-building relationship. And with their trillions of records they have to share and the fraction of government funding they're asking for them, maybe the worst thing about this is that the police are still getting a better deal at AT&T than anyone on one of their phone plans.