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Technology Your Rights Online

SprintPCS privacy 6

mikeg writes "In this month's SprintPCS bill I found a new "Terms and Conditions of Services". Normally I do not look at such things, but I had a few minutes to waste and nothing to read besides this, so I took a gander... from the "Wireless Web Services" section:

"The Caller ID blocking feature is not available when using Wireless Web Services. Your Number is transmitted to any site you visit on the Internet."

Just imagine the terrible possibilities that come about from this... I will leave them as an exercise for you. Let's just say that web log files just became really valuable to direct marketers - surveys from portals and porn sites. (calls from Yahoo - or better yet, calls from the kiddie-porn loving executive at your favorite portal site directly to your cell phone) "

This is new to me. How exactly do these wireless web services work? What's your IP address when you're browsing from a cell phone? -- michael

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SprintPCS privacy

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  • You're thinking in terms of consumer modems. Most ISPs these days don't use normal consumer modems anymore.

    Part of that, of course, is that it's a real bitch to manage that many individual modems, each with 3 cables running from it. (phone, serial, power) Modems that are built into a big rackmount chassis are easier, and even easier is a terminal server with the modems right in it. (especially PRI)

    A second major reason for not using normal consumer modems is 56K. All of the "56K" (X2, V.90, K56flex) technologies require that the ISP end be "digitally terminated". IOW, that the ISP have an ISDN hookup instead of Plain-Old-Telephone analog service.

    There are three common ways to get ISDN for an ISP. One is "BRI" which uses 2-pair for each BRI connection, but each BRI connection can handle two phone calls. (this is the kind of connection you'd get if you had ISDN at home.) You can also get a T1 line provisioned for ISDN, usually called a "PRI". (Primary Rate Interface, IIRC) A T1 (in the US) can handle 24 regular phone calls. When provisioned as a PRI you get 23 ISDN B-channel phone lines (the 24th is a control channel). (I understand than in Europe they get 30 lines per PRI)

    If you were to get, say, a Livingston^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HLucent PM3 you could stick modem cards into it, use 4 (or maybe 3 or 5...) rackmount units, have a single ethernet connection, a single power connection and two PRI lines (size of ethernet, so not much hassle) and handle 46 calls. That's much easier to manage than 46 individual modems and the terminal server(s) to go with it.

    Now, at one point in time I worked at an ISP that had a few different kinds of equipment capable of handling 56K. Starting with USR "Total Control" 16 BRI modems per rackmount talking to terminal servers to PM3s. Some of this equipment supported caller-id, and on the exact same kind of phone line as some stuff that didn't. For the ones that did, our RADIUS logs included the phone number somebody dialed in from when that information was available.

    So, that's the first way you're wrong -- for an ISP to support caller-id is trivial and is just a matter of purchasing the right equipment or possibly even just a matter of using the right soft(firm)ware for your PRI terminal servers.

    The second way you're wrong is that he's talking about a special service over PCS, not a normal modem connection. It's probably got some kind of software on their end that is, basically, a proxy. Even if it really was more like a conventional modem/terminal server setup, transparent proxies are out there and not all that hard to do, even.

    However, you've got a point about the potential marketing usage of the information -- Also, calling somebody on their cell phone for a marketing call would probably be illegal for the same reason faxing unsolicited advertising is illegal. (costs the recipient to receive and they don't get a choice)
  • I used to have a Nokia 6190 (GREAT phone) and I'm pretty sure it had an option to not send its own number. Looking through a Qualcomm QCP-1920 I don't see that option but I also forgot the password to the security menu.

    I wonder if that might work, or if for some Nefarious Reason (cough marketing cough) it would automagically re-enable itself.
  • Your IP addr. is transmitted to every web site you visit...

    Sprint probably doesn't have an IP for each phone which might be hooked up to this service, so they have to use masqueradeing; maybe they use your phone # as the port. Is there a place in a HTTP header for 'phone number'???

  • I think your fears are unfounded. It'd be a technical miracle to pull this off, and it'd hardly be worth the effort.

    First, the modem pool you dial into needs to have hardware extensions (i.e. few modems have this) that support caller ID (I believe it is not possible to software emulate this, though the specs are beyond me).

    Second, the modem pool needs to have some software like cid [] which will read the phone number. Not very common stuff.

    Third, the most feasible way to use this information, would be for the ISP to log your phone number associated with what websites you hit, and with what frequency. Telemarketing is only profitable if they're making local (free) calls, so a local ISP (or a geographic regional subset of a larger ISP's log) would only be able to sell the phone numbers to geo-centric commercial sites, like local area stores. What kind of local area stores do you know with web sites, let alone the resources to buy these hypothetical logs and the tendency to use telemarketing? That's pretty bizarre set of coincidences necessary for your privacy to be violated.
  • Now that I think about it, the hardware for digital cellular reciever towers to get your signal from phone to internet might not be standard modem pool types. It could be built into the digital cellular reciever towers themselves. Does anyone have information on that?

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990