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Verizon Tells Cops "Your Money Or Your Life"

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the pay-it-forward dept.

Cellphones 593

Mike writes "A 62-year-old man had a mental breakdown and ran off after grabbing several bottles of pills from his house. The cops asked Verizon to help trace the man using his cellphone, but Verizon refused, saying that they couldn't turn on his phone because he had an unpaid bill for $20. After an 11-hour search (during which time the sheriff's department was trying to figure out how to pay the bill), the man was found, unconscious. 'I was more concerned for the person's life,' Sheriff Dale Williams said. 'It would have been nice if Verizon would have turned on his phone for five or 10 minutes, just long enough to try and find the guy. But they would only turn it on if we agreed to pay $20 of the unpaid bill.' Score another win for the Verizon Customer Service team."

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Simple solution (5, Interesting)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060655)

Any time something like this happens everyone from the first manager with the authority to do something that refuses all the way up the chain gets held responsible for whatever happens as a result of their refusal to act.

Guy dies, they get held responsible for murder because they chose to not assist the police knowing full well that their actions would cause the death of another human being.

Never going to happen.

Not murder (4, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060803)

But manslaughter.

Thing is, how do you punish a corporation for manslaughter? Remember, a corporation is a "legal person" so you can't punish an employee for obeying the will of the company.

Re:Not murder (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060867)

Corporate death penalty: revocation of corporate charter, seizure of all corporate assets.

Probably a bit too stiff for this instance, but if a company shows a repeated "screw the community" ethic, why should the community suffer its continued existence?

The major problem I have is as little as I trust large companies, I trust the government to not abuse such a power even less.

Re:Not murder (1)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060903)

how do you punish a corporation for manslaughter?

Well, you put it in jail? The new land across the pond has outsourced many of the jails already, why not converting the company into a new jail? As a cellular operator, they already put their customers in a contractual jail. Shouldn't be too hard to declare the company a legal jail by itself.

How do you punish a corporation? (4, Insightful)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060915)

Fines. Very large fines. Verizon sounds here like they would have complied with the request had the bill been paid. Hell, if I was a Verizon tech and I knew the request was legitimate, I'd have paid the damn $20 to get the system to activate the phone, if that's what it took.

Verizon should have to forfeit to the government all profit their shareholders would have received in dividends or share increases for 3 months. We'll see if they ever pull this shit again. Someone's fucking life was at stake! Who cares if the guy was crazy, or an asshole, of owed them money - dead men can't pay bills! Help your customer survive to outlive that service contract, if for no better reason such as, you know, saving someone's life! Fucking idiots.

I don't understand this unwritten law that telcos must all act like they have some kind of mental handicap.

Re:How do you punish a corporation? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061049)

Jailtime for the CxO level executives and board of directors. That will get action fast.

corporate death penalty (2, Interesting)

taniwha (70410) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061081)

Immediate chapter 7 with the government first in line for any payouts (ahead of shareholders, who should be taking part in the risk if they own part of something who commits murder/manslaughter)

Take away their spectrum (4, Interesting)

Entropius (188861) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061089)

Right now many of these companies have been granted a public monopoly on RF spectrum. The public had better be getting something in return for this; as soon as we're not, as soon as it's no longer in the public interest to grant exclusive license to broadcast on a given frequency to Verizon, that license ought to go away.

Re:How do you punish a corporation? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061211)

I don't understand this unwritten law that telcos must all act like they have some kind of mental handicap.

Comes from having a government-mandated monopoly.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company."

Re:Not murder (2, Interesting)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061009)

But manslaughter.

you can't punish an employee for obeying the will of the company.

Why not? In this case the will of the company clearly ran contrary to public interest. I would argue that the employee had a clear responsibility to ignore corporate policy and if he got in trouble for it he should be protected and the company levied a rather hefty fine. I think one persons life is worth say... 2% of profit for five years.

Assign one or two of these fines and companies will shape up fast.

It's also possible by ignoring the officers request the employee committed a crime. Obstruction of justice comes to mind, depraved indifference perhaps, though I am sure there are others.

Re:Not murder (4, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061079)

But manslaughter.

Thing is, how do you punish a corporation for manslaughter? Remember, a corporation is a "legal person" so you can't punish an employee for obeying the will of the company.

Oh yes you can. Look at the Enron folks. You have a legal duty to refuse an illegal request. If they fire you for obeying a police request, you will have a line of ambulance chasers waiting to "help" you.

Re:Not murder (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061099)

Not the employees. Reach for the management levels. Last time I asked I was told managers get those insane paychecks for the insane responsibility they have to bear. I think it's quite logic to put the money where the mouth is.

Punishing an employee for obeying corporate policy (5, Interesting)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061135)

Remember, a corporation is a "legal person" so you can't punish an employee for obeying the will of the company.

No. The corporation's status as a legal person protects share holders. It does not protect employees of the corporation. If I charter the "Mafia Collection Agency" corporation and hire assassins, they can still be punished for murder.

In this particular case, an employee that receives the request from law enforcement has three possible actions:

1. Help, turn the phone on.
2. Ignore or delay the request.
3. Escalate to a supervisor.

#1 may or may not be possible to a customer support representative. #3 is an acceptable action.

The highest level that got a documented request and ignored it should be criminally liable. After a few mid level managers go to jail, nobody would be willing to ignore this type of request. Managers would make sure the CYA and send this up the chain until it got to somebody with common sense.

Terms of service (2, Interesting)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060829)

I'm sure the terms of service clearly state that if you haven't paid your bill you can't get phone access even to save your life.

Re:Terms of service (3, Informative)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060925)

Actually, you can get emergency cell phone access even if you haven't paid your bill. All you have to do is turn it on and call 911. Your call will go through because phone companies are required to connect you to emergency services even after your account's been canceled.

Re:Terms of service (4, Interesting)

MtHuurne (602934) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060927)

In the EU, you have to be able to call the emergency number 112 (equivalent of 911 in the USA) even if you have no calling credit. I think that also means the phone is still connecting to cell towers and therefore traceable.

Re:Terms of service (2, Interesting)

Hillview (1113491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061029)

The US has the same requirement. Any cell phone must be connected to 911 when dialed, whether it's currently "active" or not.

Re:Simple solution (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060831)

At which point, there will be a corporate memo to the effect of "If the police call asking for anything, tell them to call back when they have a court order, then hang up. Do not discuss anything else with them."

If any cooperation with the police ends at a level where no one has any authority (ie, at the tier-one helpdesk folks) then the managers asses are covered. Their legal department can probably draft such a memo / corporate policy in such a way that will minimize the company's risk.

Of course, the side effect of such a policy would be that using cell phones to locate lost kids / teens / wives / etc will drop to zero without court orders. Just a little collateral damage, I guess.

Re:Simple solution (0, Troll)

Entropius (188861) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061103)

Ah, if the telcos would only develop that sort of spine when Bush came calling wanting wiretap access...

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060847)

English Law
Main article: Manslaughter in English law#Manslaughter by gross negligence

In English law gross negligence is the test for manslaughter. The crime was defined in R v Bateman as 'to show such disregard for life and the safety of others as to amount to a crime against the state and conduct deserving of punishment.[9] In R v Adomako the House of Lords affirmed R v Bateman, and set out the five elements required for negligence:

        * A duty of care owed by the defendant to the victim.
        * A breach of that duty.
        * A risk that the defendant's conduct could cause death.[10]
        * Evidence that the breach of duty caused the victim's death.
        * The defendant fell so far below the standards of the reasonable man in that situation that he should be labelled grossly negligent and deserving of criminal punishment.

It is for the jury to decide what constitutes 'grossly negligent behaviour'.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060885)

Are you saying that that is what happens or that that is what should happen?

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060893)

Gross public misconduct. You find the company thus it's shareholders 10 years of profit. If it means the company dies sell the spectrum to someone who cares.

You're on the right track (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060963)

On a more realistic note, somebody should file suit against those assholes.
A man could have died because he didn't pay his cell phone bill.

There doesn't seem to be disagreement over if the cops had the right to track his phone, so why in god's name should the company not be held responsible for its shocking and asinine behavior?

Re:Simple solution (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061021)

Any time something like this happens everyone from the first manager with the authority to do something that refuses all the way up the chain gets held responsible for whatever happens as a result of their refusal to act.

Then again, it's quite likely that the Sheriff Dale Williams will give both "Bob" from Customer Service in Bangalore, and his supervisor "Mr. Jones", an Unsatisfactory grade when completing the online Verizon Internet and Telephony Services Help Desk Experience questionnaire.

NSA (5, Funny)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060659)

The cops should have just told Verizon they were the NSA. Verizon would have given them anything.

Re:NSA (1)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061047)

This has been rated funny but it actually makes a good point.

Will we allow warrentless wiretapping but then let companies get away with this? These companies need to act in the public interest or be broken up, period. Public interest != fed interests either.

What about E911? (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060661)

Don't even contractless cell phones have to support calling 911?
If so, doesn't that mean they are always talking to nearby tower(s) just as much as any other cell phone and thus just as easily trackable?

Re:What about E911? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060691)

RTFA...

Re:What about E911? (4, Informative)

Xaoswolf (524554) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060791)

article doesn't say anything about whether or not they followed proper channels. Anybody can call in and say, "Hi, I'm a cop, we need to find Bob, can you turn his phone on then track it?" Any customer service is going to say no. Cops actually have their own support teams that they work with, and generally, they will need things like court orders to access accounts or tracking.

Re:What about E911? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060721)

What about it? The cops were trying to locate the man by having the phone company turn on hs phone. The missing man wasn't trying to dial out.

Re:What about E911? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060733)

What about it? The cops were trying to locate the man by having the phone company turn on hs phone. The missing man wasn't trying to dial out.

If they can remotely "turn it on" - which is undefined in the article - then they already know which tower(s) it is talking to and should be able to triangulate his position within at least 100 meters or so if not much better.

Re:What about E911? (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061105)

Don't even contractless cell phones have to support calling 911? If so, doesn't that mean they are always talking to nearby tower(s) just as much as any other cell phone and thus just as easily trackable?

Yes, you are right. Author of the article colored it a bit. Police probably just wanted to call the guy and ask where he is, but his phone had no service (other than 911).

Stick to the script! (1)

L3370 (1421413) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060667)

Customer service doesn't stray far from their scripts, do they?

Re:Stick to the script! (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060889)

Well, most likely the people they talked to were all so far down the food chain that they didn't dare do anything because "But it was the Secret Service and they..." will still get you fired from most call centers (although if the particular incident gains enough media attention they might wait a few weeks to fire you to avoid bad PR).

/Mikael (who worked in tech support right after college)

Re:Stick to the script! (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061123)

Then that's a fundamental flaw with the call center model that needs to be fixed, not a justification for a bad decision.

Idiot Police imho (4, Insightful)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060669)

"After some disagreement, Williams agreed to pay $20 on the phone bill in order to find the man. But deputies discovered the man just as Williams was preparing to make arrangements for the payment."

Why did it take the police 11 hours to decide to pay the $20 dollar bill? If someones life was likely at stake, $20 out of my own pocket is a pretty small price to pay to locate him.

Re:Idiot Police imho (5, Funny)

svvampy (576225) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060741)

For ten and a half hours, the officer was on hold.

Re:Idiot Police imho (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28061207)

Can you hear me now? Goooooood.

Re:Idiot Police imho (1)

CheddarHead (811916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060837)

Well, I think both the Verizon people and the Police were idiots. Verizon should have turned on the phone for as long as it took to find the guy, even without the bill being payed. Once Verizon decided to be assholes the cop there should have just whipped out his wallet and paid them the $20. If I thought that someone's life was truly in danger I would pay $20 to find them. Now if they wanted $200 and the cop had kids to feed etc, etc maybe it would be different. But for $20 this shouldn't have taken 11 hours.

Re:Idiot Police imho (1)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061067)

Pay the $20 and then arrest the employee for extorting an officer in the process of an investigation ;)

Re:Idiot Police imho (3, Insightful)

TornCityVenz (1123185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060859)

Great so just send your billing information to Verizon and tell them anytime the police want to track someone with an overdue bill you'll glady pay. Police officers have bills too you know, and to get that $20 paid back would probably cost the average tax pay $60 in paper work alone.

Re:Idiot Police imho (1)

edalytical (671270) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061129)

Um the tax payers would have to pay for the sheriff deputies, the highway patrol troopers, the patrol's airplane, two K9 units, several fire departments and 100 individuals on foot. Somehow I think an extra $60 in paper work divided amongst a population of over 3,000 tax payers wouldn't f*ckin matter.

Re:Idiot Police imho (2, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060935)

Regulations.

Police petty cash is reserved exclusively for undercover operations in topless bars. Buying the officers drinks and lap dances.

Re:Idiot Police imho (1)

Caledfwlch (1434813) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061119)

... you don't know what the cop's financial situation is or how many times this can happen and he/she is out of pocket. There again the police department spent 11 hours x number of officers x hourly salary to track the guy down so maybe there should be a petty cash fund - but I bet they'd get flack for wasting tax-payer's money if there was. Bottom line is that a multi-billion dollar company like Verizon, that provides 911 services to the community, chose $20 over helping find someone in trouble is reprehensible!

Re:Idiot Police imho (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061187)

A) They were probably following a protocol
B) The police giving or receiving money from citizens is frowned upon in any situation.
C) The article doesn't say when they decided to call Verizon.

Alternative snarky answer:
"Yeah, Sting has plenty of money."

Any publicity is good publicity? (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060679)

Unless someone dies or is in physical danger.

They can do that? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060681)

They can actually turn on your phone, even though you have it switched off? What if the battery is drained?

This is so scary! I want to ditch my cell phone and go back to POTS.

Re:They can do that? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060841)

What if the battery is drained?

Then they obviously can't. What kind of retard are you?

Re:They can do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060899)

What if the battery is drained?

Then they obviously can't. What kind of retard are you?

The kind with a drained battery.

Re:They can do that? (1)

jeremyp (130771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061093)

I think the point is that, if you have been cut off by your provider, there is little point in switching on your phone or keeping the battery charged. The man may not even have had his telephone on him.

But (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060689)

What if it was a technical limitation, with the system strictly enforcing "no payment, no service"?

Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Verizon! (2, Insightful)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060707)

Lets see, Verizon decided to not allow law enforcement to TRACK a customer. That is a GOOD THING.

It's a cell phone, not an invasion of privacy device used on a whim by any police officer at will.

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (4, Insightful)

Sta7ic (819090) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060753)

Though they did support the guy's privacy, it was inadvertent. If you RTFA, there were two K-9 units, several fire departments and 100 individuals on foot looking for the guy after the police were called by a neighbor. They weren't concerned about the guy's privacy, they were concerned about the guy's unpaid debts.

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060771)

Ok next time your life is in danger and you are missing, we will let you be.

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060911)

Or better yet! I can report seeing you run off the day after you leave on vacation or some such! Yeah yeah false report but I coulda just seen it wrong but oh man how fun of a vacation would you have!

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060779)

That's not what happened. They would have happily tracked the guy if his bill had been paid. They wanted money, even at the expense of the customers life. (Hopefully soon to be a former customer)

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060919)

Verizon wilfully obstructed a police investigation when there was an emergency with someone in imminent danger.

Clap some of the loons in iron.

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061125)

(Hopefully soon to be a former customer)

Almost was...

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (1)

svvampy (576225) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060781)

This situation highlights the gap between technology and policy. My guess is, that if things don't get completely ignored after this news item falls from focus, then whatever policy changes are implemented will be ponderous and draconian and will not prevent this scenario from recurring.

Except... (2, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060783)

Privacy had nothing to do with it.

This was Verizon asking for payment for a late bill, nothing more, nothing less.

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (0, Troll)

Richard.Tao (1150683) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060793)

The article didn't say they refused out of privacy concerns, it said they refused because of an unpaid bill. I would agree with you on the privacy issue though, they shouldn't be allowed to randomly turn on your phone and track you just because the police say so, unless, they have the permission of a concerned relative/spouse. If there's a means to find a lost and sorely missed loved one, it should be used.

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060799)

Ha ha, you're trolling right?

Those damn firefighters are always breaking down doors too. They should all go to jail unless they get permission first.

If the police find any evidence by tracking/searching/whatever without a warrant then that evidence shouldn't be admissible in court. Suggesting that the police shouldn't have access to easy and available means like tracking cell phones to find genuinely missing persons is pretty stupid.

BTW - Verizon was perfectly willing to give up the location in return for $20.

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (2, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060819)

BTW - Verizon was perfectly willing to give up the location in return for $20.

Reminds me of the old punch line: "We've established what you are. We're just haggling over the price."

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (2, Informative)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061015)

The first time I heard the story, the person was Winston Churchill. But it changes all the time. I've also heard it be George Bernard Shaw. Here goes:

Winston Churchill was at a dinner party, and asked the woman next to him if she would sleep with him for one million pounds. She hemmed and hawed for a while before saying "Yes, I would." Churchill then asked her if she'd sleep with him for 10 pounds. Aghast, she asked him, "What kind of woman do you think I am?" Churchill replied, "We've already established what kind of woman you are. Now we're just haggling over the price."

Re:Frankly I'm siding with Verizon. Good for Veriz (5, Insightful)

The Breeze (140484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060917)

You're kidding, right?

a. Verizon didn't decide not to help the police due to some great respect for civil liberties.
They wanted money. Period. They made it clear, apparently, that as soon as the cops coughed up the $$$, they would get the info. Why are you applauding Verizon?

b. Police have broad powers when a life is threatened. Very broad. They need a search warrant to go into my house. However, if they hear a scream and a gunshot, they don't need anything other than the soles of their feet as they cheerfully kick in my door and swarm in. They are safeguards against abuse of this power. Although it happens, judges frown when officers are caught abusing it and tend to toss any illegally gathered evidence out the window. Several companies have a policy of following emergency requests with paperwork stating what was done and why. It's highly likely that if the cops were making stuff up in an excuse to scam information out of Verizon it would have come back to bite them.

No, sometimes the simplest explanation is the right one. Verizon just sucks.

Customer Service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060719)

I generally like Verizon, their FiOS service is fast and they don't do any sort of throttling or have bandwidth caps. But their customer service truly sucks. I've never gotten a reply to any emails and minimum hold time for phone calls is 20 minutes. Even Dell customer support (coming from India) is more helpful.

Where was this Verizon? (3, Interesting)

Tihstae (86842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060725)

Where was this Verizon when the warrantless wiretaps were going on? They are a business, they have no obligation to help with police work. It may have been nice but it is not necessary.

I wish Verizon had grown these balls much earlier.

Re:Where was this Verizon? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060985)

Where was this Verizon when the warrantless wiretaps were going on?

Making money on government contracts in Iraq?

Re:Where was this Verizon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28061113)

Verizon didn't grow any balls. They're still the same whore they used to be - the only difference is that they're not giving it away for free anymore.

Re:Where was this Verizon? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061121)

You got that wrong. One was an opportunity to get some "favors" if they're nice. One was an opportunity to get an unpaid phone bill if they're not nice.

Re:Where was this Verizon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28061137)

Where was this Verizon when the warrantless wiretaps were going on?

Just a hunch, but my guess is that the NSA was more than happy to pay Verizon to perform the warrantless wiretaps. (Verizon wasn't against helping the cops, they just wanted their $20 first.)

E911 Service? (2, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060797)

Whatever happened to the requirement to provide 911 service to any phone, paid up or not?

Back in the old analog days, the network operators were required to connect any calls to 911, whether the phone had a current account or not. Even after letting my Motorola brick's account lapse, I kept it in the glove compartment for just such an emergency, since analog service has much greater range (and coverage area) than digital (until they turned it off). If this requirement is still in effect, an unpaid phone would still check in with the nearest cell when entering its coverage area and could be tracked. Even if it was blocked from placing or receiving calls. That would seem to be a minimum requirement to support the E911 requirement. Unless the networks have managed to weasel out of yet another law, that is.

Re:E911 Service? (2, Insightful)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060947)

You calling 911 and 911 calling you are two different things. The law probably doesn't cover the latter.

There will come a time... (3, Funny)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060801)

...when we as a species will have to choose between whether we want to allow any and all life on this planet to survive, or whether we want to allow the corporation to survive.

The survival of Man and the corporation are mutually exclusive. In order for one to survive, the other must eventually die.

Re:There will come a time... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060879)

Translation: "If I had my way, I'd impose the death penalty on any two or more people who pool their financial interests to work toward a shared goal."

Don't worry, when you get out of your parents' basement, your horizons will expand somewhat. Fortunately for the rest of us, you won't have any real political power until that happens anyway.

Bully for the cops! (4, Interesting)

furry_marmot (515771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060809)

'I was more concerned for the person's life,' Sheriff Dale Williams said.

Bully for the cops, for a change! The guys who are supposed to protect and serve, who get such a bad rap in recent years, were trying to figure out how to pay a bill for a guy who was trying to off himself. Goddamit but that makes me feel good.

Re:Bully for the cops! (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061111)

Most officers of the law are like that.
It's any public job where 99,999 out of 100,000 goes perfectly fines all the time. 1 things goes wrong, and everyone gets all stupid.

The reason they couldn't turn on his phone (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060811)

He couldn't hear them now.

Mandatory assistance (1)

Z80xxc! (1111479) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060909)

In the US, there are laws that require cell phone networks to allow people to make 911 calls from their phones even if their accounts are expired, or even if the phone has no SIM card at all. Perhaps there needs to be a similar, inverse law requiring that emergency responders be able to track someone's phone in an emergency regardless of the state of their contract/account. Of course, there are some foreseeable privacy implications, and I'm not sure I would want the cops to be able to know where I am any time they want, but laws could be written such that a family member must give consent, etc.

The real problem... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28060959)

It was actually .002 cents he owed them.

Greed tag (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060967)

Stupid. This has nothing to do with "greed". It's obviously a bad PR move from Verizon, it will cost them. They do not care that much about an unpaid $20 bill.

This story is about how large centralized organization become bureaucratic and fail to act efficiently.

Now the sad part is that the people who are the quickest to talk about "greed" are also the one who will want the government (n.b. a large centralized bureaucratic institution) to step in and prevent "greediness"

Re:Greed tag (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061007)

What's the alternate solution? Yes, all large centralized organizations are bad. But I generally find that private-sector ones are the worst.

Re:Greed tag (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061063)

But I generally find that private-sector ones are the worst.

There's a straightforward fix for that: Enlist.

-Peter

Re:Greed tag (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061097)

The fact that the government is the lesser evil doesn't mean that it's an evil I actually want to encourage, either, certainly not through some international-violence-projecting arm of government. I simply agree with Thomas Jefferson that, unfortunately, some government regulation of very large corporations is the lesser evil, until we can figure out how to keep large corporations from forming in the first place.

Re:Greed tag (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061227)

There are few large cellphone operators because you need a government license. Radio frequencies should be homesteaded and traded as property right, not handed out by the government. Government distribution of good will favor the large and politically connected organizations.

Government is the greater evil. If you don't use a cellphone, Verizon will not charge you anything. Try not paying taxes and let me know how it works for you.

Re:Greed tag (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061101)

"Yes, all large centralized organizations are bad. B"

Completely false.

Bureaucracy's do complex things very well.

And contrary to what stupid people think, the US government is not a large centralized organization.

Re:Greed tag (3, Interesting)

Renraku (518261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061023)

You know, anyone past the first tier support person should have seen this as an opportunity for some good publicity. They could have issued a press release saying that they turned the guy's phone back on so the police could save him. Then they could have advertised how having their service helps keep people safe. Etc. Etc.

But they didn't.

I don't know what's a worse. Not turning the phone on or running your company so poorly that no one ever thinks of alternative solutions or thinks more than five minutes ahead.

Enjoy your bad publicity, Verizon. You've earned it.

Good for Verizon! (0, Flamebait)

Night Goat (18437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28060991)

Fuck the cops. Get a subpoena and we'll talk. Look, in this instance the cops might have needed the information to help a troubled old man. But I used to work for a CLEC (phone company for the layman) and there were plenty of times where the cops wanted information and acted surprised that we didn't just hand it over. There are laws dictating how this sort of thing is meant to be done. If everyone followed them, things would run smoothly.

Re:Good for Verizon! (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061073)

Bad for Verizon.

They didn't do it becasue of your rights, they did it because they guy owed 20 dollars. Had he paid they would ahve given them the information.

While you post is generally correct* that's not the issue here.

*There are instances when law enforcement officers do not need a warrant, valid reasons.

Re:Good for Verizon! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061143)

I think it's a bit of a difference between getting information because "we wanna check if he's naughty" and "we wanna find him to save his life".

Grabbin' Peels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28061017)

Inside joke.

Anyhow, if the cellphone had been shut off by the carrier, why would this guy take the cellphone with him?

Two Words: (1)

AtomicSnarl (549626) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061041)

Negligent Endangerment.

Some 3rd party (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061045)

billing center is going to loose a contract.

Insert Obligatory "Can You Hear Me Now??" Joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28061059)

Boom ching!!

Money OR your life? (1)

x78 (1099371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061087)

I'm sorry did I say your money _or_ your life?
Oh I'm terribly sorry I meant your money _and_ your life! /blackadder

Not the most accurate but it's what I can remember for now!

Re:Greed tag (1)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061185)

The stench of Randroid droppings is thick in the air this evening.

Large, bureaucratic structures at work (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28061201)

Here's a classic example of strict and rigid rules laid down without any sensible leeway, and how it backfires. A lot of companies actually have a "bible" with the correct procedure for every standard situation. ISO 9001 and other similar standards actually support this behaviour.

I can well imagine how this happened. First, there is some flowchart that dictates how and when who may turn what phone on and off under what circumstances. My guess is that some relevant part reads something like "do not turn phone on unless bill is paid". Furthermore the "executing" levels of the company (i.e. the grunts doing the work who are disallowed to think for themselves) most likely got directives to stick to the rules by the letter or face consequences (i.e. start sending out resumes, you have 2 weeks).

I pity only the poor guy who actually had to decline the request. Because he had the choice between shooting himself and finding a beam strong enough to handle his weight plus rope. If he activated the phone, he would have broken the all sacred and holy document telling him how to do his job and be fired. Now, he didn't and sure enough he'll be made the scapegoat for the blunder of a manager who created the rules without thinking of emergencies like this.

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