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Obama's Mobile Phone Records Compromised, Shared 278

Tiger4 writes "Verizon has confirmed that some of its employees have accessed and perhaps shared calling records of President Elect Barack Obama (coverage at CNN, Reuters, AP). Verizon says the people involved have all been put on leave with pay as the investigation proceeds. Some of the employees may have accessed the information for legitimate purposes, but others may have been curiosity seekers and may have even shared the information around. The account was 'only' a phone, not a BlackBerry or similar device, and Verizon believes it was just calling records, not voicemail or email that was compromised. The articles do not mention the similarity to the warrantless wiretapping or hospital records compromises of recent months. But that immediately sprang to mind for me."
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Obama's Mobile Phone Records Compromised, Shared

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  • by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @10:03AM (#25844781)
    Some of the employees may have accessed the information for legitimate purposes

    Like what?

    I doubt if Obama has any problem paying his phone bill.
  • This happens often (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @10:05AM (#25844801)

    My brother worked at T-Mobile for many years. (since before they were T-Mobile). Most Hollywood stars have their agents get their phones for them. One day, something happened in the payment process, and Val Kilmer came into a store to make a payment on his phone, instead of his agent. Suddenly, his number was getting passed all over the company, and many employees (mostly young girls) actually called the number to talk to him. A ton of people were fired, and Val got a very nice check from T-Mobile.

  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @10:05AM (#25844803) Homepage Journal

    Most of the media (for example, NPR on the radio today) talks about "unauthorized access by employees", while /. entry is about "sharing" (which is more sinister).

    PS. That and unrelated modest and subdued coverage by CNN about yesterday's record Dow-Jones drop remind me of bias in the media.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 21, 2008 @10:08AM (#25844841)

    While this is improper and wrong, I think that if the government is allowed to wiretap us, then the same laws should make it legal (Freedom of Information Act or something like that) for us to wiretap them. In fact, all government employees' and officials' calls should be recorded and made available for everyone's listening pleasure at a youtube-like site. Call it govtube. Because we are not subservient to the government; it is subservient to us. We put those people in office for our benefit, and so it is our collective right to know what they're doing over there.

  • by xzvf ( 924443 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @10:14AM (#25844921)
    A situation like this is why there are so many stupid rules at work that make people less productive. Why USB ports are disabled, or you can't have an iPod, websites like gmail are blocked. The biggest danger of electronic crime and compromising of personal information come from people that work at the company. Same as most shoplifting is done by employees of the store. The solution is, ironically stolen from the government. In order to see personal data (classified information) an employee of the company must, not only have rights to see the information, but must also demonstrate a "need to know". That two factor authentication will eliminate many of the abuses by corporate and government employees (Joe the Plumber's info breach by the state) and clearly put the action into criminal field as apposed to looky loo.
  • Obama (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @10:15AM (#25844937) Homepage Journal

    A ton of people were fired, and Val got a very nice check from T-Mobile.

    What will Obama take for his trouble? I wonder who he's been chatting with. I see here a few dozen calls to a payphone in Ottawa. For years people were suggesting the USA could annex Canada if a big enough crisis occurred. Little did they know that Canada would annex the USA after a major stock market crash.

  • Transparency (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xzvf ( 924443 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @10:24AM (#25845067)
    Actually you are strangely correct. We should have transcripts of every conversation with lobbyist, campaign contributors, and business relationships. A lack of vision into our corporate and political deal making has lead to many of the abuses over the last decade. If every non-personal conversation by corporate executives and government employees was recorded and made available to the public corruption and graft will be driven further underground.
  • Re:Thats OK. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 21, 2008 @10:59AM (#25845529)

    That's no troll. It would be far more interesting to see Bush's call records, especially as he is still the President and under the bills passed could declare himself dictator before Obama has ever stepped into office.

  • Re:Data Theft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @11:30AM (#25846019)

    Do you think that the President Elect of the United States might have greater personal security concerns than McCain's version of a working class hero? This isn't a matter of "being critical of the president".

    You know my first reaction to this? It's a good thing that this happened. Why? Because it would take a data breach of a major government official before anything really serious is done about the problem. There is a part of me that really hopes that the president and congress get all sorts of personnel data stolen/breached just so they'll start to take the subject seriously.

    Now as far as the office of the President and the white house goes... I'd hope that however the white house has their cell phone plan that say that they have some contract and have 50-1000 (how ever many) phones and some peon is in charge of paying bills, setting up/backing up address books other info of officals and that the phone company shouldn't ever know which phones are assigned to which personnel. I'd actually want all their phone conversions encrypted and what not. (Actually, I'd want every cell phone call encrypted as well.)

    Now, if this happened to be his personnel cell phone before he became famous president/government official, I can understand how this happened. I'd hope the President of the US or heck of any country or major business has more important things to do than fiddle with their personnel cell phones/tech support/data breaches.

    I'll now have that mental image of the President spending an hour on hold trying to get through the cell phone tech support mini hell before he can complain to the cell phone management rather than spending time doing whatever it is presidents do most of the time.

  • Re:Thats OK. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neomunk ( 913773 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @11:36AM (#25846095)

    Other than Clinton, could you enlighten me on some of the picks that you think are "fantastic"? I've personally been very disappointed in Obama's nominations thus far, for exactly the reason you say you're happy with them, cronyism.

    I don't want to drag this out into a long-winded rant or anything, so I'll just post what I believe to be an excellent summation of just the cronyism I'm leery of. The article I'm talking about [] is actually about worries over the possibility of a hawkish Obama foreign policy, but when reading that list of names, you'll find Clintonites and others who walk the halls of power both on Capitol Hill and Wall Street.

    I'm not trying to bash Obama, just wondering what you see that I don't, and trying to tap into a little of that optimism you have. :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 21, 2008 @11:37AM (#25846103)

    I have a friend who works for Verizon Wireless and he read me the e-mail that was sent out to Verizon Wireless employees. I am not sure whether the e-mail I was read was released to the public as well but the wording in the article is practically identical. Some of the points made in the e-mail that was read to me were...

    That protecting customer data was not just the law but also company policy and in the best interest of gaining and maintaining customer confidence."

    Over the past several years we have all read here on slashdot how our private data whether it be medical or financial or relating to whom we communicate with has been released out into the wilds of the internet for public consumption. Either accidentally such as the case of a stolen laptop or given to law enforcement agencies who failed to comply with 4th amendment protections by filing for a warrant or subpoena. Didn't Congress just unanimously vote to grant retroactive immunity from prosecution for their complicity in these violations of the constitution?

    The e-mail with which I am familiar states that the account was in fact inactive and was not a smart phone such but rather a flip phone. While it may be the law that they cannot release customer data maliciously I don't know of a law or at least one that has been or will be enforced that would criminalize the actions of the employees who decided to take a "peek" at who our president elect had been calling. In fact the e-mail stated that the employees with legitimate reasons for accessing the information will return to work and those who accessed the data without legitimate reasons will be fired. Not arrested and prosecuted but fired.

    This hole seems to just get deeper and deeper with respect to the many ways people find to circumvent privacy and how for the people involved in violating the legal protections or corporate regulations in place to protect that data there seems to be no punishment or consequence. Fast forward a few months and the people who are fired for this are looking for work and give Verizon as a reference. Too bad Verizon cannot say whether they were fired and if so for what but only verify length of employment. These people just move on and do the same thing somewhere else.

  • Re:Justifications (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:05PM (#25846517) Journal

    I'd hope so. The Video Privacy Protection Act [] was passed after the rental records of a Supreme Court nominee became public. Seems like the only way we can get any privacy legislation passed is to demonstrate to the ruling class just how important it is by violating their privacy.

  • Re:Nice red herring (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @02:05PM (#25848179) Homepage Journal

    Yup. Because EVERY person who expresses a bit of hope the country can be put back on track is an Obamajesus worshiping zealot whack job.

    Dude, the religious whack jobs are in YOUR party. What was being chanted at that famous Palin rally? Do you remember that?

    Stop projecting. Mobs of people chanting "kill him" are YOUR party asshole.

  • Re:Data Theft (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 21, 2008 @02:37PM (#25848615)

    No. All of us should demand privacy to help protect those who need it and can't have it. Specifically for people who have secrets that they don't want publicly known. This is for anything that could be embarrassing if made public - gay black men, anal sex lovers, private slobs, cuckold husbands, slutty women, etc.

    My first question concerning the Pres-Elect phone information -
    1) who paid the bill? State or personal?
    1a) if the state, all the records and recordings should be made public 30 days after the event.
    1b) if personal, all the people who illegally accessed the information should be terminated.

    OTOH, as President, there is no personal anything anymore. So Pres-Elect needs to be prepared for all communications in any form to be public record - post Presidency.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @03:26PM (#25849377) Homepage

    So this means he WILL have to let go of his Blackberry after all

    I'm pretty sure he'll have to get rid of it.

    Let's face it -- POTUS has a whole fleet of people who make sure he's got secure and reliable comms, and a group of people to get him to his next appointment on time.

    I just can't see it being practicable to have Obama running around with is own damned blackberry/cellphone.

    If for no other reason, it just seems stunningly bizarre than anyone who travels in a motorcade and has a 747 at his disposal crammed full of the most advanced communications gear would answer his own damned phone!! There are now people for that. If you're important enough to call through to the president of the United States, some navy guy in white gloves will bring it to him. :-P

    The apparatus around POTUS is just too huge for him to continue to carry a cell phone and not have that be odd. Heck, does POTUS even need to carry a wallet?? It's not like he has to stop and buy gas or a quick coffee or anything.


  • Re:Thats OK. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jlowery ( 47102 ) on Friday November 21, 2008 @03:42PM (#25849565)

    > "I've personally been very disappointed in Obama's nominations thus far,..."

    Yet David Brooks, one of the token conservative columnists at NYT, begrudgingly admires [] Obama's nominations:

    And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.