Prison telephone service provider, Securus Technologies, is responsible for the most “massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history" according to David Fathi of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Fathi's comments follow the leaking of information by an anonymous hacker to civil rights groups "based on a cache of metadata and recordings of tens of millions of calls" held by Securus.
The data reveals that even calls to attorneys by prison inmates were and are being recorded in full and "digitally stored in perpetuity".
Securus provides its services to local and state governments that operate prisons and jails, promoting its ability to securely store those recordings, making them accessible only to authorized users within the criminal justice system.
By referencing recipient phone numbers in the data leak against a directory of attorneys, civil rights groups have identified 19,000 calls from detainees to their lawyers, which should be protected by attorney-client privilege. The company’s government contracts typically pledge not to record calls to lawyers.
The civil rights groups say that even if the recorded calls sit on Securus’s servers, unlistened to, their existence of the practice is not ethical.
In 2014, Austin, Texas law firms filed a federal lawsuit against Securus, claiming prosecutors obtained and listened to calls between their lawyers and their clients. That case was dismissed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.
The law firms had filed charges that claimed the recording of the phone calls were in violation of the Federal Wiretap Act and Texas Wiretap Act and breached unreasonable search and seizure requirements in violation of the Fourth Amendment and denied and effective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment.