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Speculation On Large-Scale Phone Location Snooping

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the what-may-be dept.

Privacy 234

An anonymous reader recommends a speculative blog entry by Chris Soghoian up on CNet. Soghoian makes a convincing case that the NSA could be using loopholes in the law to gather real-time location information on the mobile phones of millions of people. There is no hard evidence that this is happening, but the blog post sheds light on the dense undergrowth of companies populating the wireless space that could be easy pickings for a National Security Letter with a gag order attached. "While these household names of the telecom industry [AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint] almost certainly helped the government to illegally snoop on their customers, statements by a number of legal experts suggest that collaboration with the NSA may run far deeper into the wireless phone industry. With over 3,000 wireless companies operating in the United States, the majority of industry-aided snooping likely occurs under the radar, with the dirty work being handled by companies that most consumers have never heard of."

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No Such Company. (2, Funny)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928213)

"with the dirty work being handled by companies that most consumers have never heard of."

That would be the NSC.

Re:No Such Company. (1)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928279)

Never heard of them

Re:No Such Company. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928521)

I think it's a good idea to assume that anything you post to the internet will be recorded and connected to you.

Even though today (eg my posting as AC) the connection is not possible, it might be in the future. After all, we see today algorithms being used to connect and relate data in ways that have never before even been considered. Who can say that in the future there won't be even cleverer ways of doing this?

And I know that this of course has a chilling effect on your speech; I'm not saying that I think this is OK or a good think etc. I think it's pretty scary, actually. But to be pragmatic, it's probably best to try to play it safe.

TL;DR: Watch what you say on the internet.

Or, National Security Council (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929421)

"That would be the NSC"

Or, the National Security Council [whitehouse.gov] . Or any of the many secret organizations of the government, that do what they want and don't worry about what voters would think

Re:Or, National Security Council (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929921)

You guys do realize that the NSC is actually a council, not an agency? In other words, a forum - they sit around and talk and advise the President. The ones who do the snooping are the NSA [wikipedia.org] .

All I can say... (1)

Josue.Boyd (1007859) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928223)

...is read your EULAs!!! This is why I don't own a cell phone. enough people have at least one, there is always one around if I need one.

Re:All I can say... (5, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928329)

that's how i used to view owning a car, but after a while people stopped inviting me to get-togethers...

but seriously, there's relying on your friends when you accidentally leave your phone at home or in the car, and then there's treating your friends as walking pay phones. perhaps it's not as bad as telling people that you quit smoking and then bumming cigarettes off of everyone else. but it's still a pain in the ass trying to reach someone who doesn't have a cellphone.

i guess it all depends on your social life. maybe your friends are cool with it, or maybe you just don't need to use a cellphone very often. but i couldn't live without my cellphone. since getting a cellphone in high school i've lost the ability to remember people's phone numbers. this led to a rather embarrassing situation at the hospital when i couldn't tell the nurse what number to dial to reach my girlfriend.

Re:All I can say... (2, Funny)

kd5zex (1030436) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928361)

this led to a rather embarrassing situation at the hospital when i couldn't tell the nurse what number to dial to reach my girlfriend.

Did you have clean underwear on at least?

May not be accidental (1)

baomike (143457) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928985)

>

Re:All I can say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929099)

Ugh.. tell that to my ex

Re:All I can say... (3, Insightful)

rawtatoor (560209) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929211)

but i couldn't live without my cellphone.

You know what? I think you would be ok if you didn't have a cell phone.

Re:All I can say... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929601)

Since when does anyone have the right to call me and expect an answer? Last I checked, the only person who gets to decide this is me, and most of the time I'm not interested in getting calls. Sure, friends sometimes complain that they can't call me whenever the urge takes them, but I point out that the phone is there for *my* convenience, not theirs, and that I'm the one paying for it so I'm the only one that gets to decide how it's used. They know that if they need to contact me, email is far more likely to get a response in a timely fashion than anything else.

Most of the time my cell sits in a desk drawer, powered off. I take it out when I think *I* might have a need for it, not when I think *someone else* might have a need for it. Since those occasions are fairly rare, I spend much of my day blissfully unbothered by people who think they just *have* to call me and interrupt whatever it is that I'm doing, because god knows, whatever they have to say is far more bloody important than whatever it is I'm doing at the time!

Re:All I can say... (2, Informative)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928401)

...is read your EULAs!!!

Oh look, here on page 13, "You hereby agree to the NSA spying on you without any legal notification of any kind."

Re:All I can say... (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929857)

Oh look, here on page 13, "You hereby agree to the NSA spying on you without any legal notification of any kind."

sp: Phone Company is in compliance with Federal legislation including the Stop Criminals act, the Stop Terrorist act and any act involving you bending over. Please consult applicable laws in your area.

Re:All I can say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928545)

Yes, that's a good idea. And when your friends realize that you're a minute sucking whore, they'll start asking you for favours too ;)

Re:All I can say... (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928555)

Is this because you don't want the NSA to know that you go to KFC, or is it because you don't want the FBI to know that you don't go to Taco Bell?

Just think, every time you borrow a phone, you expose yourself to voice analysis by the NSA.

I wish I had delusions of importance. Or was actually important.

Re:All I can say... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928675)

The point isn't that we all think we're important enough to be spied upon. (OK, maybe some of us do. :-) ) One could just as well argue that only criminals have something to hide, thus, we shouldn't encrypt our data.

The problem is this kind of behavior really shows a disregard for:

  1. The Constitution
  2. Checks and balances (included in point 1).

As citizens, we need to be naturally suspicious. Our government cannot something we take care of occasionally, when American Idol is not on TV. Rather, we have to constantly watch, and hold our government accountable.

Re:All I can say... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928831)

I find it objectionable.

There is a difference between finding it objectionable and thinking that it is important not to own a cell phone.

Re:All I can say... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928689)

Bingo

You hit the nail on the head and this is why i can't believe so many people get so worked up over this. I wonder what they have to hide.

If there is the potential that the NSA or whoever may be able to make some good of this in catching terrorists or criminals or whoever then I don't care if they know I sit at home on Saturday night only leaving to go to McDonalds at 2:00AM.

Who gives a flying fuck if they watch you do mundane crap that nobody will care about anyway? /rant --old

Re:All I can say... (4, Insightful)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928827)

Here we go again. it isn't what they have to hide, it's the things that you don't want to tell people. Just because it's the government *gasp!* it doesn't give them the right to force everyone into revealing what kind of underwear they're wearing. You might not value your privacy and have no problem giving out information, but at what point will you start to have a problem with it? At that point, you're no different than those of us who prefer to give out no unnecessary private information at all. And still, neither group has anything to hide. Does it make sense now?

Re:All I can say... (3, Interesting)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928953)

I think one can reasonably take the position (like I do) that I might be annoyed if something private about my life were to be released. My credit card number, for example, or conversations I have with friends and relatives. But I wouldn't be ashamed or otherwise hurt.

I may not want it to be released, but if it were released, the only major harm would be my annoyance.

Demand privacy. Do not require it, or you will become a slave to it. You can't be blackmailed if you have no secrets...

define secrets. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929653)

I belong to a society that our members are often killed if the government or others find out. During our meetings we are bombed or shot at.

You may say you have no secrets but the membership in my group, at the moment isn't a secret, but I don't share it with everyone. Thankfully we don't have to be underground here in the US but the time is coming that we'll have to once again go underground.

I'm a Christian. We are not dangerous but often killed by oppressive people (Muslims), governments (China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran) and awful people (anti-Christians).

If you say I have nothing to fear, you are correct. At the moment. The Holocaust started with hate and the government.

From what I see on slashdot, there's enough hate for me to fear some of the posters gaining power.

Re:All I can say... (1)

Josue.Boyd (1007859) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928901)

I can see I will need to clarify some things....

a. my social life does not suffer because I have no cell phone. (it was laughable even when I did have one)

b. there are several reasons that I choose to end my service, and it is not because I fear the Gov. tracks me.

c. It is because every bit of my data is transmitted insecurely,

d. it is because I have thus far saved $3,000,

e. it is because there are so many communication options available to every person, at any time, and at any place,

f. it is also because I have developed the all but lost art which used to be known as "patience". For those unfamiliar with it, it involves being able to wait to use a landline, or actually speaking to an acquaintance in person.

g. I abhor being at anyone's beck and call, at any time of the day or night, and that expectation that I must answer your call since I have a phone,

h. also, I keep an inactive cell around with all my numbers in it, just in case I need to call one, which I have.

i. I would also comment about how I choose to not eat at any fast food joint, and how I *do* always wear clean underwear, but I fear how your feeble minds will continue to infer ridiculous things from the scant info provided here.

and just for fun here are some excerpts from two EULAs of large wireless companies :

"Please review the terms and conditions and the associated privacy policy for each Location-Based Service to learn how the location information will be used and protected. We may also use location information to create aggregate data from which your personally identifiable information has been removed or obscured. Such aggregate data may be used for services like traffic-monitoring."

"Your service is subject to our business policies, practices and procedures, which we can change without notice."

"You don't have any rights in any personal identification number, email address or identifier we assign you (we'll tell you if we decide to change or reassign them). The same is true of your wireless phone number, except for any right you may have to port it."

"WE MAY USE AND SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT YOU AND HOW YOU USE ANY OF OUR SERVICES: ,...,AS REQUIRED BY LAW, LEGAL PROCESS OR EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES."

Re:All I can say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929249)

The underwear question was for the poster in the hospital who couldn't remember his girlfriend's number.

Re:All I can say... (3, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929057)

Privacy advocate(n): Someone so boring no one would bother spying on them.

Re:All I can say... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929543)

Just consider that everything that is transmitted in electronic form can be automatically monitored.

I you want to avoid being listened to then you should meet at the shore on a windy day and talk. Bring suitable equipment depending on the season.

This is why I keep my phone powered off.... (5, Funny)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928261)

... with the battery out, until I need it. I also keep a roll of aluminum foil with me in case I need to make a hat.

Re:This is why I keep my phone powered off.... (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928319)

You jest, but isn't it a little sad that one must be an amateur cryptographer to have some privacy?

Re:This is why I keep my phone powered off.... (4, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928891)

You jest, but isn't it a little sad that one must be an amateur cryptographer to have some privacy?

Without encryption, your expectation of privacy should be no more than that of a ham radio operator.

That said, the article seems to be about phone location snooping — somebody, somewhere records where you (or, rather, your phone) were, and not, what you said. Encryption will not help you here, but your privacy is not violated either — or not nearly as much, as the "Heil Bush" moron [slashdot.org] would like you to think.

It is not even illegal — for example from an earlier era, consider the fact, that although the contents of your mail correspondence is private, the fact of the correspondence is not. The government can observe/record/use against you the fact, that you wrote to so-and-so and/or received letters from such-and-such even if it does not know, what was written, because it could not (or would not) obtain a warrant to open up your mail.

Re:This is why I keep my phone powered off.... (3, Insightful)

letxa2000 (215841) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929121)

People need to think rationally about this instead of being paranoid. It's entirely possible the NSA or others have this kind of ability, but it's not going to happen through a host of some number of 3,000 obscure wireless companies. As you increase the number of organizations you're dealing with, the risk of exposure reaches 100%.

No. Privacy is hard, anonymity is easy (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929671)

You jest, but isn't it a little sad that one must be an amateur cryptographer to have some privacy?

Why? Why is that sad? That has been true, throughout all of history. The more people you interact with, the less privacy you have. The equation has remained the same time immemorial.

That's because Privacy at the levels some seem to think they are entitled to now, is incredibly hard and basically does not work without much diligence.

What we can all be happy with though is the fact that larger amount of interconnected data render us not invisible, but instead anonymous. Yes people CAN track your cell phone, along with tens of thousands and millions of people in the same city. Yes you are watched by a hundred hundred cameras on your way to work. But who cares, because NO ONE can sift through all that data unless they have a very specific purpose, and even then the data is so lossy the value in it is practically nil.

Just look at England, a camera network set up specifically basically to spy on the public. The fact that it has no impact on the crime it was meant to deter and punish means that even when you try to keep the data organized, there is so much that you will fail.

So smile for the camera, because chances are it's the only thing that will ever see you. You are not important enough to watch, and if you were no systems are really good enough to watch you all the time.

Re:This is why I keep my phone powered off.... (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929911)

You meant: You it takes an amateur cryptographer to decipher most EULAs

Re:This is why I keep my phone powered off.... (2, Funny)

jo42 (227475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928765)

...and patriotically proclaim "Heil Bush!" at the end of every call.

Re:This is why I keep my phone powered off.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928845)

... with the battery out, until I need it.
I also keep a roll of aluminum foil with me in case I need to make a hat.

Someone else tried that battery-trick. Didn't work for him.

Re:This is why I keep my phone powered off.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929341)

Do you know for sure how many batteries there are in your phone?

Ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928283)

Well if they weren't before, they will now. Gee, thanks for giving them ideas.

An even bigger issue (3, Insightful)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928313)

Gag orders themselves are not legal:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I can think of no greater service the press performs than to inform the population of a pending trial/investigation.

The right to investigate the government's actions is reserved to the people. Period.

Re:An even bigger issue (4, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928571)

While what you say is true in the general case, it is not necessarily true. In particular, when the courts rule it to be in the greater good (INIAL, so I'm not sure the specific criteria) they can suspend free speech rights. Also, of course, contracts are frequently used to limit speech on certain subjects, though of course those can only impose civil penalties and must be agreed to by both parties.

So, while the gag orders very likely do not fit within those limitations, they do pose one very real problem: how do you challenge them without violating them? If you just want to take the hit, you can always just ignore it, but you'll almost certainly be in federal prison for a couple years before hearing the first verdict with regards to the constitutionality of the order. And furthermore if you were successful challenging them, do you really want to be on the NSA and FSI's shit list?

Finally, there is no evidence (I am aware of) that these orders are so bad. If the NSA was targeting, say, 10 people, I'm pretty sure most people would agree that would be pretty fair and fall within the realm of a standard investigation (in which case the gag orders would be seen as fair). The real problem is that the providers aren't even allowed to say "chill out it's only a handful of people". And that, I suppose, is the big problem.

Re:An even bigger issue (1)

swonkdog (70409) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928945)

... do you really want to be on the NSA and FSI's [sic] shit list?

Absolutely. I have been very diligent in my efforts for many years.

Re:An even bigger issue (5, Insightful)

AndrewCWiggin (1360369) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928635)

Gag orders are quite legal.

First Amendment rights can be suspended if it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that it is in the interest of the common good. That is why it is illegal to yell "fire" in a theater when there is no fire - the possibility of people getting hurt in a panic balances your right to free speech.

Gag orders protect many national secrets that would cause the death of thousands, perhaps millions of people. They conceal the locations of government operatives, and protect the true capabilities of the nation's defense.

They are extremely beneficial when used correctly. Unfortunately, they are abused at a rate that is quite alarming by corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen.

Re:An even bigger issue (3, Insightful)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928821)

Yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre is not in-and-of-itself illegal. For instance, some movies cast a character who yells "fire."

What is illegal is endangering the public by suggesting there is an emergency when there is none. Suggesting there is a fire by opening the fire escape and waving everyone towards you is also illegal, and for the same reason.

This particular example has nothing to do with the first amendment.

FYI (1)

pdxp (1213906) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928819)

History of the gag order:

Another type of gag order was for a while used by courts to restrict the press from reporting certain facts regarding a trial. This gag order became more common after the Supreme Court's 1966 decision in Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 86 S. Ct. 1507, 16 L. Ed. 2d 600, in which it reversed a criminal conviction on the grounds that Pretrial Publicity had unfairly prejudiced the jury against the defendant and denied him his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. However, in a 1976 decision, Nebraska Press Ass'n v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 96 S. Ct. 2791, 49 L. Ed. 2d 683, the Court held that pretrial gag orders on the press are unconstitutional. It ruled that such orders represent an unconstitutional Prior Restraint and violate the First Amendment, which guarantees the Freedom of the Press. [legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com]

Now, what the NSA will do is issue a gag order as a "matter of national security". They can and will get away with it. Also, a gag order is very different when it is issued to contractors or employees.

Why? (2, Interesting)

tedu_again (980692) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928371)

What would be the motivation for *real-time* tracking of millions of people? How many watchers do you need to watch a million people?

Re:Why? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928417)

Three.

Why?-The three "W"'s (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928453)

"What would be the motivation for *real-time* tracking of millions of people? "

Urban Planners would like to know.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928491)

What would be the motivation for *real-time* tracking of millions of people? How many watchers do you need to watch a million people?

You don't watch them. You just keep a log.

After a leak occurs, you cross-reference the reporter's path with the paths of everyone that had access to the information. When you find one person who was in the same place as the reporter for a half hour the day before the story broke, chances are you've identified the whistleblower to retaliate against.

Or you pick out whoever your most vocal critic is for the day and find out where their dirty little secrets are. Use whatever you learn to discredit them.

If you need something done, find a random person's secrets and blackmail them.

You need to blackmail someone in particular? They live a perfectly clean life? Find their associates and use (blackmail) them to pressure your target.

Re:Why? (1)

tedu_again (980692) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928961)

Yeah, sure, but that's not real-time. Unless the author's idea of real time is "months later".

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929105)

The black helicopters use too much fuel so this method of tracking produces a smaller carbon footprint and will help save the planet.

realtime attack detection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928381)

The things you could do with realtime location information. You could "watch" suspected terrorists converge on cities, landmarks and airports. Even if you didn't have a sense of "suspected terrorist", you could watch for connected graphs of individuals converging (cell phones are vertices, edges are calls between cell phones). There's all kinds of other information you could draw in to give a graph's threat level.

I hate human rights abuse. Technically speaking though, this is very interesting.

Re:realtime attack detection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928553)

Even if you didn't have a sense of "suspected terrorist", you could watch for connected graphs of individuals convergingCompare and contrast the graph of

Hello Pizza Hut? I'd like to get a large pepperoni delivered to ...

vs.

Hello Godfather? I'd like to order a hit on ...

Of course, someone will invariably point out that pizza hut's phone number is well known and can therefore be ignored, in which case:

Hello Pizza Hut? I'd like to order the kablooie special, delivered to ...

This kind of analysis only works if your enemy is as retarded and useless as you are, because obviously the enemy would never take a minimum wage job driving around town with pizzas and/or explosives.

most consumers have never heard of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928411)

Wayne Industries?

Re:most consumers have never heard of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928437)

You're fired Saxby!

Re:most consumers have never heard of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928767)

Crap, nevermind. I'm old. Quickly read, I thought you had said Whyte!

Loopholes? (5, Insightful)

Asmor (775910) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928451)

the NSA could be using loopholes in the law

Why use loopholes when they don't have any qualms about outright breaking the law?

Re:Loopholes? (4, Insightful)

AndrewCWiggin (1360369) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928685)

Why use loopholes when they don't have any qualms about outright breaking the law?

Why break the law when they can follow to the letter every initiative passed by a corrupt Executive in Chief?

Re:Loopholes? (5, Insightful)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928695)

What loopholes? You're carrying around a frigging transmitter that conveniently even transmits a unique identifier. There is no expectation of privacy any more than if you're talking on an old citizen's band radio.

The only forms of communication interception that require a court order are opening and reading someone's mail (strictly snail mail) or listening in on an actual phone conversation:

- phone records are public (who called who and for how long)
- e-mail is not private; never has been due to it's store and forward nature
- external addresses of snail mail received

If the information is readily available, there should be no expectation of privacy. A case can even be made that *ANY* broadcast communication (cell phone, wireless home phone, bluetooth headset, etc.) is not private. If you throw it out on the air waves, there's no guarantee that someone else isn't listening; even if by accident. As a guess, the government can also legally track you without a warrant (given sufficient interest and effort) using an RFID chip in one of your credit cards.

This isn't news. Get over it.

Cheers,
Dave

Re:Loopholes? (1)

xlv (125699) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929119)

phone records are public (who called who and for how long)

Phone records are private, at least in the US, only phone numbers may be public if they're not explicitly setup as unlisted numbers.

Re:Loopholes? (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929409)

Uh, e-mail _is_ private. Need a warrant to search it.
http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/06/appeals_court_s.html [wired.com]

In reality, not (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929645)

Uh, e-mail _is_ private. Need a warrant to search it.

Hi there. This is Slashdot. A technical site.

As such, we here have a few requirements for readers. Such as, when we say "store and forward" in the context of email you are to understand that technically that content is stored anywhere, forwarded anywhere, all not under your control.

So instead of being some kind of suit who laws the laws bend rules of nature, why don't you put on that technical hat and realize that it doesn't matter what the law says - email has ZERO expectation of privacy on your part, unless you are encrypting the contents. Otherwise, it can and will be read by a lot more people than the federal government.

Re:Loopholes? (3, Funny)

darth dickinson (169021) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929451)

As a guess, the government can also legally track you without a warrant (given sufficient interest and effort) using an RFID chip in one of your credit cards.

Pray tell, how can you track someone using a device that requires radiated energy from a transmitter no more than 5 feet away? Wouldn't the spook with the fedora and trenchcoat following you around with an RFID receiver pointed at your ass kind of be a giveaway?

Re:Loopholes? (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929935)

Wouldn't the spook with the fedora [...] be a giveaway?

Yeah; he should use Hidden Linux [hiddenlinux.com] instead.

False. (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929647)

Warrants have been required in case law for GPS admissibility for some time now.

Location snooping is only the beginning (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928475)

I was recently hired by a company that works on classified information. Cell phones are not allowed, by DOD policy. The risk lies in the ability of [??] to remotely activate the phone and eavesdrop on the microphone. This wasn't a joke, several people believe the capability already exists.

siiiiigh, no... (4, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928737)

I was recently hired by a company that works on classified information. Cell phones are not allowed, by DOD policy. The risk lies in the ability of [??] to remotely activate the phone and eavesdrop on the microphone. This wasn't a joke, several people believe the capability already exists.

Having the cell phone remotely activated is the least of their concerns. They're more concerned about YOU activating it, or using it to store something.

I have a friend who works on classified stuff too (as does just about anyone who works in DC/Maryland.) They have a room that is for use of classified systems and materials.

Cell phones etc are kept outside because everything that goes in, stays in, so that it can't be used to bring something out. For example, he took a USB mouse in, and had to buy a new one to replace it- they wouldn't let the USB mouse out, because it could be used to hide stuff. Maybe it had been modified with memory, or opened up and something classified stuffed inside the case. Etc.

Re:Location snooping is only the beginning (4, Interesting)

NoName Studios (917186) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928797)

This has been possible for a long time already. The Nokia 5160i released in 1998 could be used to eavesdrop. Simply short the answer button to the light up key pad. Toss it in a room and call it at your convenience. The phone will answer immediately without ringing.

Re:Location snooping is only the beginning (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928913)

That's a stupid policy.

1. [??]
2. Profit!

duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928485)

Why is the sky blue?

Wife (5, Funny)

bastafidli (820263) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928495)

As long as my wife doesn't know where I am then who cares about the government.

Re:Wife (1)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928597)

As long as my wife doesn't know where I am then who cares about the government.

I suspect you will when the government threatens to tell your wife! Now, you don't really want to show up in court and counter that cop's testimony, do you?

Re:Wife (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928775)

You're joking, right? We all know ./ers don't really have wives.

Re:Wife (1)

mr_death (106532) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929197)

Yes indeed -- and recall the old toast "To wives and sweethearts; may they never meet."

Are they hiring? (2, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928547)

I'm absolutely against this sort of terrible thing, but, um... it is the kind of contract with more immunity to outsourcing.

It must be true (1)

ghostunit (868434) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928583)

I once saw Batman do it

My Solution (2, Funny)

EZLeeAmused (869996) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928587)

Every other day, I tie my cell phone to a well trained swallow (european - it's a small phone) and let it fly around with it all day. Worst case, it nests in the eaves of a meth lab, in which case I present the DEA with the swallow.

Thanks, Apple! (4, Funny)

superdan2k (135614) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928601)

With the spotty performance of the GPS on my 3G iPhone, I don't need to worry about the NSA ever finding me!

This is why voting matters, folks (2, Insightful)

cpu_fusion (705735) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928629)

If you can vote, please vote for Congresscritters and a President who explicitly endorse an end to this bullsh*t.

Re:This is why voting matters, folks (1)

EaglemanBSA (950534) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929269)

Do you happen to know of any? I don't. This is why most voters are disaffected.

Too many people would know (3, Interesting)

redelm (54142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928631)

It is easy to keep a secret: tell no-one! Two people can only keep a secret if one or both of them are dead.

Sure, the NSA could try. Maybe even under a legal smoke-screen. The problem is the gag order wouldn't stick. Too many people would need to know, or see the traffic. Somebody, somewhere would leak. Lots of good, anonymous ways. And it is not as if they're comitting treason.

Besides, I don't think this would yield much. Anyone concerned with surveillence should have their cells turned off unless making a call or expecting incoming/gathering txts. More concerned invidividuals will use disposible phones.

Re:Too many people would know (1)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928705)

I agree. There's no way on earth the number of people who would have to know would be kept quiet. Let's face it, regardless of how potent the NSA is in some aspects, when they work with private companies the hearsay and rumors of what's going on will get out very quickly. Especially for anything "large scale".

Quite honestly, I feel stories like this are propaganda. If you can trick some guy considering joining some organization meant to harm the US, then it's probably not so bad of a thing to make him think he's always being watched.

Based on the above, I don't feel much reason to slap a tinfoil hat on myself and act like I care. Wow, they'll know where I buy groceries and maybe learn my super secret fishing spot.

Re:Too many people would know (4, Informative)

siddesu (698447) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928885)

In the country I was born, about a quarter of the population were recurited as informers of the secret services.

The scale of this "domestic intelligence" was virtually unknown (although suspected by some) until recent laws allowed some old records to be opened.

Yet, even now there are still people who (out of ignorance, political reasons, blind trust in the government, financial gain etc.) still ignore or deny the fact that mass spying was going on such scale.

Based on this experience, if I were you I'd at least entertain the possibility that such thing is possible to do.

Especially if, as the article points out, it is possible that a lot of seemingly innocent data is obtained from a variety of (helpful) sources and then stitched together into a coherent profile by a secret agency with huge budget. ;)

A general problem with modern connected systems. (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928665)

Unfortunately, this is just one facet of a larger problem with no especially easy solution.

Trouble is, a lot of modern high-tech, networked systems generate huge amounts of potentially creepy data just in order to work. Your cellphone is useless if the network doesn't know what cell you are in, who you are calling, and what cell they are in. Nor does it work if the network doesn't know which handset and SIM are yours. Credit and debit cards only work because the system knows who to transfer money from and who to transfer it to. Hell, the internet isn't going to work all that well if systems between you and your destination don't have the information they need to deliver packets.

Now, none of this means that we should aggregate and make use of these data, indeed, I think we shouldn't. However, because all these data necessarily exist for the system to work, they are constantly just sitting there, yours for the collecting. That makes legislative or cultural safeguards extremely difficult to build, even under the best of circumstances(ours are not the best of circumstances).

Unfortunately, I don't know of any good way out. In some cases, it might be possible, with sufficient will, to build systems that don't generate so much compromising information(I hear very interesting things [nctu.edu.tw] , for instance, about using clever crypto tricks for electronic currency [nctu.edu.tw] ). In others, that may not be possible. While you can, at a cost of latency and bandwidth, make tracking your activity on a network a nuisance(see tor), you would be hard pressed to defeat an opponent who can see the whole network, and you certainly can't match the efficiency of unobfuscated traffic.

Barring a more or less apocalyptic collapse of modernity, we are going to have a damn difficult time building technology that doesn't, just in order to work, know rather more about us than we would like. Nor will it be very practical to directly legislate against particular abuses, the tech changes too quickly, and a disconcerting proportion of legislators are thick as posts when it comes to technological issues.

If there is any hope at all, which I'm not sure that there is, it would be in doing what we can technologically(cryptographic cash + encrypting everything we can + avoiding potentially backdoored systems) along with encouraging a culture that rejects surveillance.

A general problem with trust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928861)

More like a general problem with the erosion of trust in societies. Think of how smoothly society would work if everyone trusted everyone else. Artists could release anything they wanted without fear. Consumers could enjoy anything they wanted in peace.

Re:A general problem with modern connected systems (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929147)

Your cellphone is useless if the network doesn't know what cell you are in, who you are calling, and what cell they are in. Nor does it work if the network doesn't know which handset and SIM are yours. Credit and debit cards only work because the system knows who to transfer money from and who to transfer it to. Hell, the internet isn't going to work all that well if systems between you and your destination don't have the information they need to deliver packets.

- it's called polling. Sure it's not as fast, but if the data is queued up somewhere that can be reached with a request and an identifier, then it should be possible to anonymize the original location (proxies and such.) It is possible to do but noone does it this way because it is not a primary concern (usually.)

Privacy is an illusion, (2, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929591)

See, people like to think that nobody else knows about them. At least, when they don't want anybody to.

But the truth is that when you are in public, there's this horrible electromagnetic vibration generated by a large source (called the "sun") which generates EM radiation. Almost without exception, some of these EM rays will bounce off you and be detectable by other biological units that contain passive EM radiation sensors. (eyes)

Once so recorded by biological units, the information about your whereabouts is thereafter not private at all. Said biological unit might be your wife, who may or may not appreciate the red-head's hand that you are holding at the fancy restaurant you told her last week was "too expensive" for a Friday night date.

Get over it! The problem isn't the PRIVACY of your data but its TRANSPARENCY.

When your county's land ownership is a matter of record as a piece of paper at the county office (circa 1960) the fact that it's "public record" is no big deal, because there's a certain amount of privacy in the fact that, to find out who owns your house, somebody has to physically go to the county office, talk to the extremely overweight clerk (the one in the white sweater with breasts the size of small watermelons) in order to view the deed for your street address, and then write that down to know who you are.

But it's different when there's a website with your house ownership, phone number, social security number, and just about everything else known about you, available with a mouseclick or a google search. I just searched my home address, and found that google dutifully returned my name, and both of my home phone numbers. It took me another 2-3 minutes to search and get my SSN.

Privacy? Fat chance. And anything that uses the airwaves is, by definition, part of a public resource. You are no private with your cell phone, cellular card, or wifi card than you are with the sunlight and your wife.

Get used to it. Decide if it's worth it, and make up your mind.

funny little story (2, Funny)

deathtopaulw (1032050) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928835)

Back in the day, upon finding a friend's phone unattended, I used to change their language to something unintelligible. These days, I leave the language alone and go straight for the GPS tracker setting. That's right, I opt my friends in for tracking by the government. Pretty funny!

1984 is now affordable (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928853)

305,063,243 Americans
talk 0.11 hours per day on the phone or 6.6 minutes on average per day or 2,409 minutes a year
or 734,897,352,387 total minutes a year
Using GSM cellphone audio compression technology of 5.6kbps or 336kbpm or 246,925,510,402,032 kb/year or
30,865,688,800,254 KB/year
or
30,142,274,219 MB/year
or
29,435,815 GB/year
or
28,746 TB/year
or
28 PB/year
and if you assume people mostly talk to other Americans you only need to record half of the conversions
or 14 PB/year
1TB drive currently costs about $200 or
$3 million dollars to store all the made calls in the US in a year plus overhead.

Encrypted Mobile PHones (4, Interesting)

Dogun (7502) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928865)

At this point, I think it's pretty clear that people need a secure way to perform key exchange with friends and have the keys stored and the conversations decrypted off of their mobile phone devices.

Why aren't such systems in the consumer space yet, and cheap?

Re:Encrypted Mobile PHones (4, Insightful)

EaglemanBSA (950534) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929323)

Can you imagine the scrutiny you'd be inviting to your doorstep if you were the first one to buy a setup like that? Not only that, but look at how difficult it has been to instigate widespread use of PGP -- it's growing (and fast!), especially with more user-friendly interfaces such as Ubuntu's, but the sad reality is that most people really don't care.

I ask the exact same question all the time, and from fellow slashdotters, you'll get a 'hear hear', but from John Q. Public, you're more likely to get a 'I prefer my false sense of security over your privacy rights'. Downright aggravating, I know.

Because they add money, and who cares? (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929679)

Honestly who really has conversations they care two figs about being listened in on, except perhaps teenage girls and boys.

You may be worried about the government listening but the simple fact is any network tech might just as well be listening in for fun - and that's just the reality of who networks, well, work.

Since no-one cares there is zero value in encrypting cell phone traffic because it would add to the cost of a phone to do so.

Buy an OpenMoko and knock yourself out.

I'm not sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24928881)

It may have something to do with this. [thisbitch.info]

I could be wrong though but what the hay.

You'd think that they'd offer better service (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 5 years ago | (#24928987)

The phone companies GIVE AWAY gobs of their best technical services for free to the NSA. One would think that if they can afford to do that they could give us kulaks better or cheaper or more effective and comprehensive service. I for one am mightily pissed off that I'm paying my horribly inefficient and service-lacking cell phone company to do this. To me this is a hidden tax.

have fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929003)

https://81.143.55.50:58443

The NSA Doesn't Care About Laws (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929103)

the NSA could be using loopholes in the law

Now that Congress has demonstrated its enthusiasm for rewriting laws when telcos and the NSA violate them (along with the Constitution, like in the 4th Amendment), as it just did this Summer in the FISA, why should the NSA care about the law at all? Laws are for little people.

The NSA is a dickhold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929219)

The NSA is always trying to find some way of grabbing information from you.

What can we do technologically (1)

solosaint (699000) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929399)

Is there anything out there to scramble our whereabouts, encrypt our text messages or voice convos? It seems like we use our cell phones more and more, and encryption has been a lost idea with this newer technology

Re:What can we do technologically (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929523)

Easy. Let go of the cell phone, the computer, the pda, etc...

Just look at how hard of a time they had to catch the Unibomber. He didnt use any high tech shit just some fertilizer and what not to make bombs. He sent everything via typewriter not by printer or email to the agents and what not, etc...

Re:What can we do technologically (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24929631)

Encrypted phones have been available for years, they basically use a sort of VoIP over a data connection to share information. However, that won't help too much because that use would signal you as someone who:

a - is hiding something and
b - has enough money to do so (those things are WAY overpriced, I think they're about USD 1000/piece).

I find it amusing that after 8 years of Bush someone displays mildly unwarranted optimism in thinking that the law is still applied to agencies like the NSA.

These agencies can do a superb job (and have done), but their apparent desire to escape control and oversight suggests that exactly that oversight and control is needed. Disappointing.

look at the iPhone feature list (3, Insightful)

straponego (521991) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929467)

If you really want to be paranoid (I know I do!), consider the following features of the iPhone:

* GPS (It knows where you are)

* No way to remove battery (You can't turn it off)

* No multitasking/process monitoring without jailbreaking (You can't see what it's doing)

* No video capabilities (You can't record the police-- which is one of the few dangers to the state, these days.)

Interesting that a device so compelling in so many ways is crippled in such specific ways.

Oh, and of course... it's AT&T.

...er, just kidding!

snake oil (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929629)

ThorpeGlen's vice president of global sales showed off the company's tools by mining a dataset of a single week's worth of call data from 50 million users in Indonesia, which it has crunched in order to try and discover small anti-social groups that only call each other.

Data mining can work, but it requires a lot of care and validation. This sounds like snake oil to me: people finding patterns in data, and then putting some interpretation on it.

Re:snake oil (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 5 years ago | (#24929733)

Data mining can work, but it requires a lot of care and validation. This sounds like snake oil to me: people finding patterns in data, and then putting some interpretation on it.

Does ThorpeGlen care ? As long as someone buys their product.

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