Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Your phone records are NOT private

This is simply outrageous and needs to end immediately:
In a nutshell, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story two days ago about a Web site that sells phone records, for cells and land-lines, for $110 a pop. The company boasts on its own Web site:
Give us the cell phone number and we will send you the calls made from the cell phone number.
So I went to their site, plopped down $110, and within a day I had a list of every single phone number that called my cell, or that I called from my cell, for the month of November. I even had the dates the calls were made, and for a premium I could find out how long the calls were.
That's right - anyone can buy a list of your incoming and outgoing phone calls, right over the Net, for just $110. And it's both cell phones AND land lines. Your phone records are most certainly NOT private.

What's being done about this? One Democratic senator has already taken action:
Some online services might be skirting the law to obtain these phone lists, according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has called for legislation to criminalize phone record theft and use.

In some cases, telephone company insiders secretly sell customers' phone-call lists to online brokers, despite strict telephone company rules against such deals, according to Schumer.

And some online brokers have used deception to get the lists from the phone companies, he said.

"Though this problem is all too common, federal law is too narrow to include this type of crime," Schumer said last year in a prepared statement.
Even FBI agents are vulnerable:
[T]he FBI paid $160 to buy the records for an agent's cell phone and received the list within three hours, the police bulletin said.


Frank Bochte, a spokesman for the FBI in Chicago, said he was aware of the Web site.

"Not only in Chicago, but nationwide, the FBI notified its field offices of this potential threat to the security of our agents, and especially our undercover agents," Bochte said. "We need to educate our personnel about the dangers posed by individuals using this site and others like it. We are stressing that they should be careful in their cellular use."
For many people, this is going to come as an unbelievable shock. But it's true. Your phone records are essentially up for sale to anyone who has a hundred and ten bucks. Locatecell offers these "services":
Reverse Cell Phone Number Lookup $65

Find Name and Address from number. Additional Cell Reverses available including Canadian Cell $85, and International Cell $250.

Find Current Cell Phone Number $95

Give us the name and any combination of address or SSN and we will send you the working cell phone number.

Cell Phone Call Record $110

Give us the cell phone number and we will send you the calls made from the cell phone number.
So much for privacy. Anybody - reporters, political enemies, law enforcement (without a warrant), your spouse, your business competitors - anybody who's got $110 can spy on you.

This has to end. Even most Republicans should be able to agree with us on this one. If you're concerned about your privacy, call your telephone company and ask them to put a password on your records.

Aravosis has more here in a must-read post.

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