Way back in 1984, my friend and Tamil Nadu’s police boss K Mohandas had told me that all phone conversations are being recorded vide a special international protocol to prevent acts of terrorism in multiple countries by use of satellites and the usual tapping methods.
The calls, Mohandas had gone on to say, are routinely checked for coded messages by terrorists [physical and financial] and when found harmless are routinely discarded.
But, all those calls that are linked to persons suspected of perfidious activity are logged, tagged and retained to build files that can be used against agent provocateurs whenever, wherever, and in whichever necessary way, legal, illegal or otherwise, he had pointed out.
“You press guys can yell your heads off, but big brothers all over the bloody places are watching, hearing and reading the throbs in silly your entrails and engraved spleens,” Mohandas had added with a broad smile.
For a long, long time, I have been saying that all mobile phone calls are being recorded by multiple entities.
Similarly, all electronic transmissions are also being read, checked, understood, retained/destroyed and/or made part of a larger file on individuals, nations, corporations, terrorists, social service organisations, political parties … whatever.
I have said that for an organisation like Microsoft – on whose basic platform some 98% of the world’s electronic traffic goes back and forth, doing this and passing the info on – duly assessed – to the world’s power is the easiest and perhaps the best thing to do because one cannot be sure of the motives and methods of any terrorist or other desperadoes.
And perhaps persons like Julian Assange have had access to such info stashes that were unleashed to embarrass those illegally enjoying ill-gotten power and using them for purposes other than security.
Julian did the same and is in trouble and the world is accusing him of having misbehaved with some Julia somewhere in Sweden! Now that is what I would call a stupid joke.
Meanwhile, all of you guys and gals can be sure all of your personal conversations are being overheard. At least The Washington Post thinks so.
Here is the report published today!
Cellphone carriers report surge in surveillance requests from law enforcement
By Ellen Nakashima
Local, state and federal law enforcement authorities made more than 1.3 million demands for cellphone subscriber information last year, in a sign of their growing reliance on technology to aid criminal and emergency investigations.
The reports from carriers came in response to a congressional inquiry seeking to document the surge in surveillance involving data from mobile devices as more and more Americans carry cellphones to talk, text and send messages.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) requested the information from carriers, including records on “cell tower” dumps, in which the carriers provide law enforcement authorities with data on cellphone users near a cell tower during a discrete period of time.
According to the carriers, nine of whom responded to Markey’s inquiry, all requests were made pursuant to a legal warrant or granted because of an emergency situation in which an individual was in imminent danger.
“We cannot allow privacy protections to be swept aside with the sweeping nature of these information requests, especially for innocent consumers,” Markey, co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, said in a statement. “Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack?”
The volume of the new demands being made of cellphone carriers was first reported online Sunday evening by the New York Times.
The data turned over include geo-location information, based on cell tower and Global Positioning System coordinates; calls made and received; text message content; and wiretap information, Markey said.
Law enforcement authorities say that such data are useful in tracking drug traffickers, fugitives and kidnappers, especially in emergencies, and that they are not interested in the activities of law-abiding Americans. The practice of collecting such data is not new but has become increasingly prevalent, prompting debate about legal standards and privacy protections.
In 2007, The Washington Post reported that law enforcement officials were routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of criminal suspects. In some cases, The Post reported, judges granted the requests without issuing a warrant requiring the officials to demonstrate that there was probable cause to believe that a crime was taking place.
The exact legal standard for acquiring geo-location data is in dispute. This year, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must obtain a warrant to attach a GPS device to a vehicle for long-term tracking. But state and federal courts are still divided on whether that standard applies to cellphone data.
The rise in requests for carrier data contrasts with the use of traditional wiretaps in criminal investigations. There were 3,000 wiretap authorizations in 2010 nationwide, according to Markey. Experts note that the vast majority of wiretap orders — about 85 percent — are for cellphones.
The congressional inquiry found a gradual increase in law enforcement requests for cellphone tracking data. Verizon reported a 15 percent rise over the year before. T-Mobile reported an increase of 12 to 16 percent.
The carriers have turned down requests they deem to be unwarranted or not backed up by the required degree of legal justification. Law enforcement may use a subpoena when actually a court order is required, for instance. AT&T noted that in 2011, it rejected an average of 18 surveillance requests a week for wiretaps and for subscriber call data.
--Courtesy The Washington Post