"That's not the only unusual detail: the cost of the program – described as "Google Earth with Tivo" – was covered by a Texas billionaire, something that critics say was a useful way for the police to avoid having to ask permission to carry out the surveillance"
Um that's not true if you are acting on the behave or and gent of the police you need permission.
IE the local plod thinks that some is using FEDex to ship drugs and asked fedex to open up said package they would need a warrant. If fedex did it on it's own then that would be legal. If this was not true the police could ask people to break into some house to look for evidence.