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Author Topic: Latest NSA Telco twist
TinMan
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Both Bell South and Verizon are 100% denying that they were even approached by NSA for collection of information about customers.

For all of you who were so outraged, look in the mirror, and ask yourself, why were you so willing to believe 100% accuracy and truth from a media source, and so ready to condemn the government?

But, but Bush has always lied and decieved us! The media source says so! So willing to trust a source that hides and keeps secret its sources, and then in the same breath condemn a source that hides and keeps secret its sources.

I will keep what has been my default stance for a while now. I dont know enough to change my mind, and it's not even made up yet.

Let the conspiracy theories commence!

Oh, and complete egg on my face if the conspiracies turn out to be true later on. I'm willing to take that bet.


Vote for the Android party! At least we don't even pretend to have hearts!

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Wayward Son
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I didn't even know that customer information was an issue. All I had heard was that the NSA just wanted the phone numbers.

Of course, my media sources pointed out that the NSA, or you or me, could always find the owner of any particular phone number via a number of programs on the Internet. So the NSA didn't need the customer information.

So why are they making a big deal out of not giving it? [Confused]

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The Drake
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Bellsouth is claiming that they didn't provide logs of any kind? But you could drive a truck through some of the caveats. Like stating they didn't work with the NSA specifically, instead of saying, "We have not provided bulk customer calling information to any government agency"

BellSouth

quote:
ATLANTA, May 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement regarding media reports about U.S. governmental agency data collection may be attributed to BellSouth Corporation (NYSE: BLS):

There has been much speculation in the last several days about the role that BellSouth may have played in efforts by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other governmental agencies to keep our nation safe.

As a result of media reports that BellSouth provided massive amounts of customer calling information under a contract with the NSA, the Company conducted an internal review to determine the facts. Based on our review to date, we have confirmed no such contract exists and we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA.

BellSouth has built a successful business because of the trust that our customers have placed with us. We will continue to take our obligations to our customers seriously.

SOURCE: BellSouth Corporation


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The Drake
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Verizon

quote:
NEW YORK -- Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) today issued the following statement regarding news coverage about the NSA program which the President has acknowledged authorizing against al-Qaeda:

As the President has made clear, the NSA program he acknowledged authorizing against al-Qaeda is highly-classified. Verizon cannot and will not comment on the program. Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to it.

That said, media reports made claims about Verizon that are simply false.

One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers’ domestic calls.

This is false. From the time of the 9/11 attacks until just four months ago, Verizon had three major businesses – its wireline phone business, its wireless company and its directory publishing business. It also had its own Internet Service Provider and long-distance businesses. Contrary to the media reports, Verizon was not asked by NSA to provide, nor did Verizon provide, customer phone records from any of these businesses, or any call data from those records. None of these companies – wireless or wireline – provided customer records or call data.

Another error is the claim that data on local calls is being turned over to NSA and that simple "calls across town" are being "tracked." In fact, phone companies do not even make records of local calls in most cases because the vast majority of customers are not billed per call for local calls. In any event, the claim is just wrong. As stated above, Verizon’s wireless and wireline companies did not provide to NSA customer records or call data, local or otherwise.

Again, Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to the classified NSA program. Verizon always stands ready, however, to help protect the country from terrorist attack. We owe this duty to our fellow citizens. We also have a duty, that we have always fulfilled, to protect the privacy of our customers. The two are not in conflict. When asked for help, we will always make sure that any assistance is authorized by law and that our customers’ privacy is safeguarded.


Interesting distinctions, especially the note about local calls. Since they aren't typically billed - local calls might not be tracked. But all calls on a cell phone are tracked.
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The Drake
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This could turn out to be another media debacle, I'll be the first to admit. If it does, I'll happily recant my claim of "unacceptable".

Of course, if there is No Such Program, the government could do us all a favor and just say so, instead of this:

[url=http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060511-1.html]

quote:
After September the 11th, I vowed to the American people that our government would do everything within the law to protect them against another terrorist attack. As part of this effort, I authorized the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. In other words, if al Qaeda or their associates are making calls into the United States or out of the United States, we want to know what they're saying.

First, our international activities strictly target al Qaeda and their known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans. Second, the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. Third, the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.

We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates. So far we've been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil.

As a general matter, every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy. Our most important job is to protect the American people from another attack, and we will do so within the laws of our country.


How can it be a leak, if the program doesn't exist or is false?!!

This statement focuses a lot on declaring that the actions the government takes are legal (what else are they going to say?), and that only the bad guys are being investigated.

As if we're dumb enough to think that everyone who is ever investigated for something is guilty.

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DonaldD
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Local phone calls are not logged? Someone better tell all those cop shows that depend on that as a plot device!
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Rallan
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So if this is the case, then whither the lawsuit against Verizon? I'm assuming the lawyers who filed against Verizon in Manhattan had something a little more substantial than rumour and innuendo to go on.

And lo, I'm too lazy to use tags on the link to the relevant article:
http://custom.marketwatch.com/custom/iwon-com/news-story.asp?guid=%7B501DBACD-B34C-4246-9EDB-604BB4FAADD9%7D

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DonaldD
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Why do you assume that? It wouldn't be the first time litigation was initiated for no good cause. Not that I'm making any claim one way or another, but the existence of a court case doesn't really demonstrate anything - it could in fact be the only way to find out exactly what happened.
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TinMan
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As for the lawyers, Class actions means money in only one group's pockets, the lawyers. They get 33% percent of $100 billion. The 100 million other people get , probably around $500 dollars a piece if paid out. Oh, AND their fees. Of course they sue. They were sitting by their phones, drooling, waiting for someone to call them so they could initiate the suit. Either that or trampling each other to be the first to file if they required no client to file.
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TinMan
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I worked for one of the major telco's as a developer. All calls are logged. And yes, we were explicitly told (this was 8 years ago) that if any government agents came to ask about records, we were to "cooperate fully" with quite the emphasis. If I recall correctly, there was an actual application in place that we could turn on when required to do some sort of additional logging or tracing. This application, also if I am recalling correctly, was required to be on all deployed switches and routers.
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Everard
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"All calls are logged. And yes, we were explicitly told (this was 8 years ago) that if any government agents came to ask about records, we were to "cooperate fully" with quite the emphasis"

Interesting. THe law we've been looking at says pretty much the opposite.

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Eric
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TinMan's correct on the logging. Every phone switch, from a small company's PBX to large-scale 5-ESS (if I'm remembering the name correctly) switches can generate SMDR (station management detail records) which show calling number, called number, date, time and duration of call, among other data points. And ultimately, even cell phone calls go through some kind of switch.

I'll abstain from the debate over whether analyzing such data for patterns and trends is illegal.

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The Drake
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Eric & TinMan:

Thanks for that information on local calls. I guess now we can throw out at least Verizon's statement for containing a blatant lie?

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Eric
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Drake --

I don't know that I'd summarily dismiss it as a lie. SMDR collection can be set at different levels. Given that a lot of (all?) TELCOs now offer unlimited local dialing, they may turn off SMDR collection at the switch for local calls.

My current land-line plan (with Verizon, BTW) offers unlimited domestic dialing, so I call anywhere in the lower 48 states free of charge.

The primary purpose of SMDR collection is for billing, so if there's no billing to be done...

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DonaldD
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quote:
Another error is the claim that data on local calls is being turned over to NSA and that simple "calls across town" are being "tracked." In fact, phone companies do not even make records of local calls in most cases because the vast majority of customers are not billed per call for local calls. - Verizon
So, given what's been said above, is it likely that Verizon simply ignores the information available to it, or are they lying? Also, Verizon makes the claim "phone companies do not even make records of local calls" - is Verizon simply misinformed, was TinMan's employer an exception, or are they consciously being misleading?
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Eric
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quote:
...or are they consciously being misleading?
I doubt we'll ever know. All the TELCOs are certainly capable of collecting the data. Whether they all are or not only they know for sure.

TinMan also states that it was eight years ago when he worked for a TELCO. Calling plans since that time have become more competitive with nearly all companies offering unlimited local dialing, and with that competitiveness comes the need to cut costs. Collecting SMDR data on non-billable calls is an expense that most TELCOs would want to cut.

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DonaldD
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On the other hand, that's also information that can be used for making market decisions. And lets face it - the cost of continuing to archive this level of information is pretty minimal (much less expensive than it was 8 years ago)
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Collecting SMDR data on non-billable calls is an expense that most TELCOs would want to cut.
Having worked with and for a few telcos in the past, I'd be surprised if they weren't still logging most of this data, even if they ignored it for the vast majority of clients. There's no obvious downside to keeping it, and there are all sorts of potential downsides to not having it if you needed to produce or refer to it. In fact, I did a project for a telco that was using this sort of information for marketing purposes; I can't imagine that they'd let that sort of tool go unused.

Edit: Or pretty much what Donald said, with an added "I helped them use this for marketing purposes" stinger. [Smile]

[ May 17, 2006, 10:26 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Eric
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quote:
...the cost of continuing to archive this level of information is pretty minimal (much less expensive than it was 8 years ago)
Have you priced an EMC DMX disk array lately? :-)

All jokes aside, you and TD are probably right...the value of keeping this data for marketing, traffic analysis, capacity planning, etc. is probably to great for them not to keep it.

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