Monday, April 17, 2006

Ma Bell and Big Brother

In an unusual twist on the NSA story of the illegal warrantless wire tapping of Americans, it appears that AT&T has provided some extra help to the government. A NY Times editorial reminds the growing communications giant of its responsibilities in today's edition.

A former AT&T employee has come forward with documents suggesting that there may be a lot more domestic spying going on than President Bush has admitted. The AT&T documents suggest that telephone companies may be helping the government engage in wholesale interception of telephone calls, e-mail messages and Web surfing. If AT&T is violating its customers' privacy rights, it should come clean, and stop immediately.

According to Mark Klein, a longtime AT&T technician who is now retired, AT&T maintained a room at its San Francisco Internet and telephone hub where its customers' data could be mined by keywords, e-mail addresses and other attributes. Mr. Klein says the National Security Agency was given access to the room and the data. He says other technicians have reported to him that similar rooms exist at other AT&T sites.

...The lawsuit [filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation] seeks damages on behalf of a large number of AT&T customers, which could provide the company with a strong incentive to re-evaluate its policies. But even without the suit, AT&T has a reason to worry if it is participating in illegal domestic spying. In the age of unfettered communication, no company should want to get a reputation for allowing the government to listen in on its customers' phone calls, read their e-mail and monitor their Web activity without the requisite legal showing.
[Emphasis added]

AT&T may have been subject to some pressure from the current regime, but it also is a big enough company that it must have some lawyers on the payroll who remember their Constitutional Law course in law school. By cooperating in this fashion, the company is complicit in what surely is illegal spying. The EFF suit may very well be matched by others, and this could turn out to be a very expensive mistake for the telecommunications company. One certainly hopes so.

I probably should add a disclaimer at this point. I am an AT&T customer, one who just went through a very bad experience with the company's service department. I guess it's time for me to go shopping around for a new telephone service. I hope I'm joined by a whole lot of other AT&T customers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am working on getting another service but i do not have a lot of options .i am very rural and since i run linux i have to worry about drivers to support sattelite technology since cable is out

9:07 AM  

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