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Sunday, January 08, 2006

It's not the NSA you should be worried about

I've made the point before, but government overreach should really be the last of our concerns when it comes to safeguarding our privacy. Lack of government oversight in the private sector is the problem.

From the Chicago Sun Times:

The Chicago Police Department is warning officers their cell phone records are available to anyone -- for a price. Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts.

Criminals can use such records to expose a government informant who regularly calls a law enforcement official.

Suspicious spouses can see if their husband or wife is calling a certain someone a bit too often.

And employers can check whether a worker is regularly calling a psychologist -- or a competing company.

Some online services might be skirting the law to obtain these phone lists, according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has called for legislation to criminalize phone record theft and use.

In some cases, telephone company insiders secretly sell customers' phone-call lists to online brokers, despite strict telephone company rules against such deals, according to Schumer.

And some online brokers have used deception to get the lists from the phone companies, he said.

"Though this problem is all too common, federal law is too narrow to include this type of crime," Schumer said last year in a prepared statement.

In other words, Kossacks want to provoke a constitutional crisis because the NSA did something like this to track Al Qaeda, but anyone with $100 bucks can already do it today. During the Able Danger story "information brokers" and "buying information online" were mentioned several times. Frankly, it makes me wonder if Able Danger might have used a service like this in order to locate Al Qaeda agents.