While we figure out what exactly the NSA is doing with Verizon customer's phone records, a supposed AT&T employee explains to TPM how his/her/its employer collects call records.
Verizon’s network is a little different than ours, despite this, they can probably see most of the same data we can. I can pull call records for a single number, which will give me phone calls, text messages, and internet data sessions. On phone calls & text messages, I can see the length of the call, the number of characters in a text message, the cell site the call/text was placed on. I can also see the same information for the receiving end of calls or texts.
The anonymous AT&T employee says he/she/it has been with the company for "close to 15 years" on the network engineering side. He/she/it goes on to explain that AT&T customer call records can be pulled for "many, many months in the past" and that calls and texts for any particular place, like a city, can also be pulled for "any given time." And that in high density areas the company could "narrow down the sender/receiver of a call/text to a square mile (or less) fairly easily."
In the case of the NSA collecting Verizon customer data, which doesn't seem to include the actual contents of calls or texts sent, the same seems to be true for AT&T. That's a good thing, right? [Talking Points Memo]