Who’s Spying On You? Nearly Everyone!

Here’s another one of those stories that’s smoldering in the geekosphere but ready to light up like a Roman candle. A Freedom of Information request was sent to the US Justice Department by an Indiana University grad student looking for some insight into what info our government gets from our Internet service providers.

Before the DOJ could answer the ISPs chimed in. They were not happy.

From Wired: “Verizon and Yahoo intervened and filed an objection on grounds that, among other things, they would be ridiculed and publicly shamed were their surveillance price sheets made public.”

Hey Verizon and Yahoo!, saying you’ll be ridiculed and publicly shamed isn’t going to make me less interested. It’s not something I want my government hiding behind either.

I am very uncomfortable if the people I entrust with my email or to provide my Internet access give away my secrets, often without a warrant. This is just plain wrong on a variety of levels.

And don’t think these are isolated incidents. You will be shocked by how often this happens!

From “slight paranoia“: “Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009.”

Like I said, this is smoldering now, but not for long.

3 Responses to “Who’s Spying On You? Nearly Everyone!”

  1. Lou says:

    This will be a roaring fire before long. The quote from “The Hunt For Red October” applies:

    “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”

  2. Gary says:

    From Slight Paranoia – “Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009.”

    this stat is misleading – telcos provide GPS coordinates to 911 call centers.

  3. Geoff Fox says:

    Gary is correct concerning Sprint (though they do refuse to say how many are 911 related and how many are actual surveillance). However, this activity is just part of the story.

    Here is a response a Sprint spokesman gave to another, similar, posting in the Kansas City Star:


    Since I’m quoted in your story, I wanted to restate a point I mentioned to you earlier on the phone.

    While I was unable to provide an exact number of the public safety agency and law enforcement requests we’ve received during the past year, I was clear that the 8 million automated requests or pings were generated by thousands (NOT millions) of instances in which law enforcement or public safety agencies sought customer location information.

    Several thousand instances over the course of a year should not be surprising given that we have more than 47 million customers and requests from law enforcement and public safety agencies are due to a variety of circumstances: exigent or emergency situations (e.g. missing person), criminal investigations, or cases where a Sprint customer consents to sharing location information (e.g. a car is stolen, the owner realizes his phone is still in the car so he consents to providing the phone location information to law enforcement.)

    Responding to public safety or law enforcements requests is not unique to Sprint, nor is it a new revelation. It’s unfortunate that the original blogger mischaracterized the “8 million” figure without attempting to verify it.

    Also, as I mentioned on the phone, in all cases we require a valid legal request appropriate for the circumstances, meaning the request must be accompanied by either a subpoena, court order or customer consent. In all cases, we comply with applicable state and federal laws.

    Matt Sullivan

    Sprint Nextel


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