Saturday, January 07, 2006

Your Phone Records Are For Sale: $110

According to a Chicago Sun-Times story, anyone can buy a list of your incoming and outgoing phone calls, cell or land-line, for $110 online.

John Aravosis decided to try it out:

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.


Now, before you write this off as just another sad story, let me explain to you just how serious the situation really is - not just to your own personal privacy, but to law enforcement, every politician in DC and around the country, and to national security.

1. Are you an FBI agent with confidential sources?

Again, I quote the Sun-Times:
To test the service, the FBI paid $160 to buy the records for an agent's cell phone and received the list within three hours, the police bulletin said.
2. Are you a police officer with confidential sources?
The Chicago Sun-Times paid $110 to to purchase a one-month record of calls for this reporter's company cell phone. It was as simple as e-mailing the telephone number to the service along with a credit card number. The request was made Friday after the service was closed for the New Year's holiday.

On Tuesday, when it reopened, e-mailed a list of 78 telephone numbers this reporter called on his cell phone between Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. The list included calls to law enforcement sources, story subjects and other Sun-Times reporters and editors.

3. Are you a journalist with confidential sources?

Do you think anyone in Washington, DC would like to know who James Risen of the New York Times, the reporter who broke Bush's domestic spying scandal, has been talking to over the last year? Well, just plop down a few hundred bucks and buy his phone records. Kiss his sources goodbye. Or how about Bob Novak? Be fun to find out who he was talking to, oh, around the spring of 2003... Or the phone records of any US reporters - imagine the fun the Bush administration could have LEGALLY getting a record of every single phone call you've ever received or made. Spying on Christiane Amanpour? Who needs to! Her phone records are available for $110 and the click of a button.

4. Are you a Democratic or Republican member of Congress?

Imagine the fun should some rich Democratic or Republican donor plop down $1 million to get the phone records of every single member of Congress from the other party. Who have they been talking to? George Soros? Pat Robertson? Their mistress? Did any of them talk to any reporters on or around the day that any big leak came out of Congress? Did you ever have a phone conversation with Jack Abramoff? I do oppo research for a living - I would give my right thumb to have a list of every phone call made or received by a member of Congress from the other party on their cell phone. Go ahead, make my day.

5. Are you a Bush administration official?

Imagine the fun should someone get Karl Rove's phone records, or Dick Cheney's, or President Bush's.

6. Are you a special prosecutor by the name of Patrick Fitzgerald?

Love to see who HE's been talking to?

7. Are you an Al Qaeda terrorist?

Don't you think they'd love to pull up the phone records of FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security officials to find out if any other Al Qaeda "affiliates" are snitches, or at least to see who they're talking to. Or pull up the records of their own people to see if they've been talking to reporters or FBI agents?

8. Are you a regular old American criminal, a member of the Mafia for example?

Think they'd find it useful to check who among their associates has been talking to reporters, politicians, or law enforcement?

9. Are you someone who's being abused by your spouse?

Wouldn't it be great to have your partner find out you're talking to an abused women shelter or to the police?

10. Got AIDS, cancer or any other disease you might want to keep private?

Imagine the fun should your employer find out you call the AIDS hotline every week, or the women's breast cancer clinic.

My point here is that this is incredibly dangerous, our government has known about it for a good half year or longer, and no one has done a damn thing about it.

11. Are you a woman who ever has, may, or will get an abortion?

Do you want everyone knowing you made a few too many phone calls to the Planned Parenthood clinic?

The list goes on and on and on.

So not only is our government spying on citizens, phone companies are providing phone logs to a company to sell on the Internet.

Has your privacy been trampled upon enough yet?