Looks like AT&T is impressed with NSA-like surveillance tactics — That’s why the company is spying on users without a warrant and selling data to law enforcement.
An investigation held by Daily Beast revealed on Monday that AT&T – America’s largest telecommunications provider – has been involved in selling access to data pertaining to calls, locations and phone numbers of users to the law enforcement agency.
A secret hidden from the public: The investigation discovered documents which stated that AT&T was providing access to consumer’s call data to police departments for building cases. The access was requested by the police using a subpoena and part of the agreement involved that the issue must not go out into the public.
The access is being sold for thousands of dollars and the ultimate cost bearers are the taxpayers. Unbeknownst to them, their privacy is being breached at the expense of their own money.
Hemisphere: The program of selling such access goes by the name of Hemisphere. It was originally used by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as part of their motto to fight drug abuse.
AT&T spokesperson, however, stated that once the government requests for access to customer’s private data through a court order, it is mandatory for the company to do as requested. Given that AT&T holds records that go back to more than seven years, it is no wonder that the police is after it.
“Like other communications companies, if a government agency seeks customer call records through a subpoena, court order or other mandatory legal process, we are required by law to provide this non-content information, such as the phone numbers and the date and time of calls,” according to AT&T spokesperson.
The Stingray case: The practice of using customer data without revealing it to the public is not something new. Previously, a similar case involved the use of Stingray devices. These devices acted as the network towers so as to gain access to cell phone data of users.
As with the Hemisphere is the scenario, the police signed an NDA with the FBI binding the police not to reveal the use of Stingray devices. In fact, it went so far as to state that cases are to be abandoned which may likely reveal the use of such devices.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 25, 2016
It is this attitude that is quite worrisome. Until there is complete transparency about customer’s metadata is being used, there are no means by which the situation can be monitored and controlled.