Thursday, June 6, 2013

Where You Go Plus Who You Phone Equals Who You Are: Secret Court Order Hands Verizon Records To NSA — UPDATED

It is "only" the metadata, i.e., packet data: the number and location of the phone making the calls. But that data, collected over a period of time, can tell the NSA practically everything it wants to know about you. Here's James Ball in The Guardian:


Discussing the use of GPS data collected from mobile phones, an appellate court noted that even location information on its own could reveal a person's secrets: "A person who knows all of another's travels can deduce whether he is a weekly churchgoer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups," it read, "and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts."

(Glenn Greenwald has more thoughts on what it all means.)

"[A]ll such facts." The NSA can now collect them. (I think it is reasonable to assume it's not just Verizon but at least all mobile phone companies and probably all phone companies in America.) You are where you go; you are who you phone: privacy is dead in America, and you have two presidential administrations to thank for that. The sound you hear is the nation's founders spinning in their graves.

UPDATE: The White House still thinks spying on us all without a warrant is a great idea. Maybe you should flood their mailboxes with letters telling them it isn't.

UPDATE: the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has accumulated a number of informative links together in one of their online periodical newsletters. They have also introduced me to a parody NSA logo, which they may have created...
Yep. That about says it... plugged in, tuned in, turned on and dropped out of public visibility.


  1. "The White House still thinks spying on us all without a warrant"

    they did have a warrant (or at least a court order issued by the FISA court). the problem is that the 2008 FISA amendments (that senator Obama voted for) allowed the FISA court to issue blanket authorization for spying rather than individual warrants for specific cases against particular individuals. since the 2008 law passed, I have assumed that the government was doing something like this. It is now legal to do so.

    the PRISM thing, i think, may be a different matter.

    1. 'noz, I realize the futility of my reading the Fourth Amendment for deep content, given that IANAL. But I can't help noticing the word "particularly" regarding the naming of what, where and who are to be searched. How can any sort of "fishing expedition" law, which this clearly is, comply with the Fourth Amendment's requirement of particularity? I realize the courts' power to interpret laws (including the Bill of Rights) can become a power to transform those laws, and I understand that that is what the FISA court is doing here. But I wish we had a real Supreme Court on the bench to examine the constitutionality of such actions. It seems mighty fishy to me.

      As to PRISM, I am just being introduced to that today by the Guardian article. At first glance, it looks pretty scary.

  2. Remember The Handmaid's Tale? Where the US has become a military-dictatorship/police-state/theocracy/fundamentalist-christianity-gone-wild? And after many adventures, the main character manages to escape over the border into Canada where eveything is lovely and perfect? I guess Margaret Atwood knew what she was talking about . . . .

    1. Oh, yes, c, I remember The Handmaid's Tale... more chilling even than 1984. Atwood is a splendid author.

      I don't know that I'd want to scamper to Canada; they have problems of their own. I've been reading some mystery novels by Louise Penny, set in Québec; their multicultural problems are in some ways worse than our own. But at least in Canada it's less likely you'll be shot dead on the street.



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