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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Privacy Worries

This story is quite disturbing. Apparently, your cell phone records can be bought for around $100 from a company which openly advertises the service on its website.
Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts.

Criminals can use such records to expose a government informant who regularly calls a law enforcement official.

Suspicious spouses can see if their husband or wife is calling a certain someone a bit too often.

And employers can check whether a worker is regularly calling a psychologist -- or a competing company.

...To test the service, the FBI paid Locatecell.com $160 to buy the records for an agent's cell phone and received the list within three hours, the police bulletin said.
This is LocateCell's website, where they boast:
Give us the cell phone number and we will send you the calls made from the cell phone number.
These guys tested the service by buying General Wesley Clark's cell phone records:
I reported the other day that your cell phone records are on sale online for anyone to buy, without your permission. Well, this morning AMERICAblog bought former presidential candidate, and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (SACEUR), General Wesley Clark's cell phone records for one hundred calls made over three days in November 2005, no questions asked. (Clark's cell phone provider is Omnipoint Communications, which seems to be related to T-Mobile.)

All we needed was General Clark's cell phone number and our credit card, and 24 hours later we had one hundred calls the general made on his cell phone in November. The calls included a number of calls to Arkansas, to foreign countries, and at least one call to a prominent reporter at the Washington Post.
All that for only $89.95.

Now, I'm no Wesley Clark. There is nothing in my cell phone records that would interest anyone. Trust me. Booooring. Nevertheless, for reasons that I'm sure I don't have to explain, I find this extremely worrisome. The fact that this service is legal is beyond this particular blogger's comprehension. But then again, our present government isn't particularly taken with protecting its citizens' right to privacy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think asbout the ramifications this could have had in situations such as the Plame case. As Americablog noted, Wesley Clark's records contain a call to a major reporter. Private calls are no longer, unless they will have to again be the domain of the pay phone at the corner deli, if those even still exist.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was on the news tonight. Scary stuff. Truth is, tho, these companies are all a google search away, if you've ever tried. (don't ask why I've tried, please.)

11:40 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Oy. Please don't get your laws from DB... you had such a great post, too. :)

But I'm surprised that this isn't a bigger deal - people are hung up on the government listening to terrorists they feel might be threats, but they ignore the fact that you or I could get their personal records?

12:21 AM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

OM, I see all of these calls on your records made to Yeshiva of South Shore -- does that mean you're switching!!?!? :D

1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to some, ("Three Cheers for the Surveilance Society" by David Brin) http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2004/08/04/mortal_gods/index_np.html , it's inevitable that privacy disappear as technology improves. The "global village" will be just like the old villages of yore, when EVERYONE knew your business. The key is to empower the public to be able to keep tabs on everyone also, and not just let the govt or industrial elites have a monopoly on it.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Judge Alito did say that there is a right to privacy in the constitution, which ought to really upset the literalists.

I find the amount of anti-government feeling in this country fascinating. There really is a lot of upset about the government listening into our phone conversations but not about our phone records being public knowledge. And we don't want a single payer health insurance system even though the taxes required would be far less than what we currently pay for private insurance, and everyone would be covered.

10:32 AM  

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