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Speculation On Large-Scale Phone Location Snooping 234

Posted by kdawson
from the what-may-be dept.
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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Speculation On Large-Scale Phone Location Snooping

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  • by MRe_nl (306212) on Monday September 08, 2008 @09:54PM (#24928213)

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

    That would be the NSC.

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:01PM (#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.
    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:08PM (#24928319) Homepage Journal
      You jest, but isn't it a little sad that one must be an amateur cryptographer to have some privacy?
      • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:33PM (#24928891) Homepage

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by letxa2000 (215841)

          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%.

        • . . . 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 would like you to think.

          It is not even illegal

          It sounds a lot like stalking, which is illegal in most US States.

      • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:04AM (#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.

        • 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 [...]

          These claims are often made by privacy advocates [epic.org], but other sources have the opposite view [bbc.co.uk].

          However, even the EPIC acknowledge, that there was some contribution made by the CCTV surveillance: "Evidence from Europe, however, suggests that the benefits of CCTV are significantly overstated." They then skillfully juggle the facts: "While th

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jo42 (227475)

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

  • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:07PM (#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.

    • by Artraze (600366) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:49PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rob the Bold (788862)

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

        I'm with the other responder, "yes". In fact, the more people on the "shit list" the better. Then the "shit list" isn't worth -- shit. It's just a phone book. If the NSA and FBI are keeping a "shit list", they are derelict in their actual duties.

        Finally, there is no evidence (I am aware of) that these orders are so bad.

        Well, that's the beauty of keeping it secret.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        Finally, there is no evidence (I am aware of) that these orders are so bad.

        http://www.aclu.org/safefree/nationalsecurityletters/ [aclu.org]

        "The Justice Department's Inspector General has reported that between 2003 and 2006, the FBI issued nearly 200,000 NSLs. The inspector General has also found serious FBI abuses of the NSL power."

    • by AndrewCWiggin (1360369) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:55PM (#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.

      • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:22PM (#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.

        • by Raenex (947668)

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

          It has everything to do with the first amendment. This example was used by the Supreme Court to show how speech can be limited. See Shouting fire in a crowded theater [wikipedia.org] for details.

    • by Xiroth (917768)

      RTFAmendment. Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.

      It says nothing about the courts. Congress could remove the courts' ability to make gag orders, but the courts don't need Congress' approval for rulings pertaining to the fair application of justice. IANAL - this is just my understanding of the system, so more knowledgable folk should feel free to raise an objection.

  • Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tedu_again (980692)
    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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slashqwerty (1099091) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:38PM (#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.

  • Loopholes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Asmor (775910) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:31PM (#24928451) Homepage

    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? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AndrewCWiggin (1360369) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:01PM (#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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:03PM (#24928695) Homepage Journal

      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

      • by xlv (125699)

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DaveAtFraud (460127)

          As a guess, phone records are about as well protected as say the T.J. Max customer database. Also, I was only thinking about phone number to phone number records. They yield sufficient information to do traffic analysis (who talks to who and in what sequence). Finally, I would be really surprised if the phone companies were all that careful about who has access to such data. If you consider all of the much more sensetive data that people have downloaded onto laptops that were then stolen or lost, I'd gu

      • by Urza9814 (883915)

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

        • 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 -

      • by darth dickinson (169021) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:14AM (#24929451) Homepage

        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?

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

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

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DaveAtFraud (460127)

          Suggest you read the most recent issue of Scientific American. You'd be surprised what can be done with RFID chips.

          It's one thing to read sufficient information to complete a sale; it's something else to just be able to track someone. Also, the "five feet" is what can be accomplished with commercial equipment. Any bets that a higher gain antenna can do better? It may not be convenient for a retail application but it probably is feasible if someone really wants to track you.

          Cheers,
          Dave

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

      • The principle that the airwaves are public and anyone can 'listen to' any transmission (or perhaps more correctly, 'look at' any part of the EM spectrum) is very useful.

        IIRC, this principle has been the basis for throwing out laws that forbid the use of radar detectors, which are, of course, simply radio receivers tuned to a particular frequency.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        This isn't news. Get over it.

        Cheers,
        Dave

        You're an asshole.

        Cheers,
        Your Friend

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Deanalator (806515)

      With about 1000 dollars of radio gear and gnuradio, I could set up a similar system. If I dump 1000 more into an fpga I can passively crack a phone call every 30 minutes. This was demonstrated, and code was released 2 years ago. It has also been on the market since at least 2001.

      Sure, I think it would be dumb if our three letter agencies were wasting our tax dollars on this, but I don't really see any legal issues here. This tech is even currently deployed in many shopping malls around the country so ma

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:09PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by houghi (78078)

        I understand this, but then there are people who could memorize data. Then there are several places in and on your body where you can hide stuff. Take in a cheapo phone with a miniSD card. The card could be easily placed in many places on or in your body.

        Obviously the phone will have a second card with real music on it, so if they investigate it, they will find a normal phone.

        Obviously you will loose your phone, but when you do such a thing, your phone might be the least of your worries.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ArsenneLupin (766289)

        everything that goes in, stays in, so that it can't be used to bring something out.

        what about clothes?

        oh, and for that matter, what about your ass?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by cryptodan (1098165)
        We in the intelligence community call that a SCIF: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensitive_Compartmented_Information_Facility [wikipedia.org]
    • by NoName Studios (917186) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:18PM (#24928797) Homepage

      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.

    • That's a stupid policy.

      1. [??]
      2. Profit!

    • 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.

      They believe [cnet.com] the capability exists?!?

      If the FBI can do it, who else can do it? The Ruskies? Your insurance company? Coca Cola's marketing department? Your neighbor?

      I, for one, look forward to owning an auditable open source phone some day.

  • Wife (Score:5, Funny)

    by bastafidli (820263) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:38PM (#24928495) Homepage
    As long as my wife doesn't know where I am then who cares about the government.
    • 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?

    • by mr_death (106532)

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

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:46PM (#24928547) Homepage Journal

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

  • My Solution (Score:2, Funny)

    by EZLeeAmused (869996)
    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.
  • by superdan2k (135614) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:51PM (#24928601) Homepage Journal
    With the spotty performance of the GPS on my 3G iPhone, I don't need to worry about the NSA ever finding me!
  • by cpu_fusion (705735) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:55PM (#24928629)

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

    • Do you happen to know of any? I don't. This is why most voters are disaffected.
    • by chord.wav (599850)

      On these matters, both candidates use the same agenda. It's like when I want a new computer and ask my wife about what color should it be. She's happy with the color election and she feels part of the whole process but, what she doesn't get to vote for is, whether we need another computer or not.

  • by redelm (54142) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:55PM (#24928631) Homepage

    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.

    • 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

      • by siddesu (698447) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:33PM (#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. ;)

        • by redelm (54142)

          Yes, I'm well aware that occupied East Germany and some other countries had huge networks of informants. The problem became dealing with so much humint. But that was known and legal.

          Here, the problem the NSA faces is oversight. Even if their activities are only leaked to the minority members of the Congressional Intelligence oversight committees, they face very serious scrutiny, If the leaks make it to the press, the firestorm burns them badly. The fundamental difference is the people still control bo

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:58PM (#24928665) Journal
    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.
    • by roman_mir (125474)

      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.)

    • 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

  • 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!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:27PM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Yes, let us look at that overhead.

      High speed data connections to every data center of every cell phone service provider. We are talking OC3s at a minimum.
      Paying the network admins, sysadmins, production support analysts, managers, accountants, and executives of every company, even after they leave the company and/or industry. Oh, and some of those people will have to falsify financial reports, SOX compliance, etc. which can get them sent to jail, so it won't be cheap.

      Everyone always forgets that the difficu

  • by Dogun (7502) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:29PM (#24928865) Homepage

    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?

    • by EaglemanBSA (950534) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @12:47AM (#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.
      • by siddesu (698447)

        I started using encryption for most of my communications ages ago - first ssh and ssl, then email and chat encryption - and I still haven't had any problem from whatever evil forces are spying on me.

        The real problem is elsewhere -- encryption is hard to do, entails cost in convenience and implies a warranty on the part of the body that provides the service/device.

        Given the high profile that privacy glitches get in the news, it is likely every discovered bug will generate a small PR nightmare for the provide

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by houghi (78078)

      This will not solve the problem of the NSA and everybody else knowing who you speak to and for how long and what time. The fact that your only words on the phone are "Aunti feels better now" are encrypted or not are mostly irrelevant. (Perhaps even the message is some sort of code)

      With all the data available, what they are interested to see is who talks to whom and se how the networks are. Only then will they perhaps be interested in taking a closer look at what you do.

    • by Detritus (11846)
      Ask the FCC. Your new cell phone needs FCC approval and must conform to FCC rules. This can be expedited by being "cooperative" with the government.
  • 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.

  • by straponego (521991) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:19AM (#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!

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • by russotto (537200)
      Small anti-social groups who only call each other? Great, they've found tens of thousands of high school cliques. Also large numbers of groups of co-workers using business phones.
  • Why is this kind of non-news blogspam being allowed on /.?

    "Well, they could do it...." is only acceptable when there is some evidence that "they" are actually doing it.

    After all, the author of the blog post could be a child rapists and murder, but there is no evidence he actual is.

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