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December 6, 2006 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Your cell phone is a 'roving bug.' But of course, you have nothing to hide.
posted by bukharin (85 comments total)

 
scary
posted by SBMike at 11:44 AM on December 6, 2006


And they said I was paranoid. Well, at least they still need a warrant...... oh.
posted by IronLizard at 11:49 AM on December 6, 2006



"Paranoia is knowing all the facts." - William Burroughs
posted by bukharin at 11:50 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


I guess my days of running drugs and shooting overlords is over.
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 11:53 AM on December 6, 2006


Does anyone have technical details on this, or is it just more fodder for the tin-foil hat brigade?

The idea of downloading a firmware update into someone's phone that allows you to turn it on remotely isn't new, but the claims about the hardware seem implausible to me.

Particularly, "Any recently manufactured cell phone has a built-in tracking device, which can allow eavesdroppers to pinpoint someone's location to within just a few feet" rings the bullshit bell.
posted by tkolar at 11:54 AM on December 6, 2006


wow, that's pretty insane. Surely there is a market for "secure" phones... is such a device possible?
posted by twistedonion at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2006


Lookup E911 for cell phones.
Look up mologogo.

Add 2 and 2.
posted by IronLizard at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2006


I thought that tracking ability was required by law for 911 purposes. What seems odd to me is that they can use the phone to listen when it is not on.
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:57 AM on December 6, 2006


And it's been commercially available for some time now, btw.
posted by IronLizard at 11:59 AM on December 6, 2006


I'll they'll get is my answering cervix.
posted by hal9k at 12:01 PM on December 6, 2006


What seems odd to me is that they can use the phone to listen when it is not on.

Just program the uC to turn the phone on and call you quietly. You can do this yourself with java in some phones. The FBI has also stated that the phone cannot be used to place calls while they're using it as a bug. All very basic stuff that's been discussed for decades and, in the last few years, has become reality. Nothing new here.
posted by IronLizard at 12:02 PM on December 6, 2006


"Any recently manufactured cell phone has a built-in tracking device, which can allow eavesdroppers to pinpoint someone's location to within just a few feet" rings the bullshit bell.

If your cell didn't constantly broadcast its position to the nearest towers, you'd keep dropping calls. Triangulating your location by cell phone is nothing new.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:03 PM on December 6, 2006



What this level of surveillance by ubiquitous technology makes me wonder is what disquieting effects it has on Washington in terms of blackmailing opposition, or at least keeping them afraid of being blackmailed. We all know the lengths Nixon went to, and now it's never been easier.
posted by bukharin at 12:06 PM on December 6, 2006


OK, folks, reality check:

Most new cell phones now contain GPS receivers. It's possible for the system to send a challenge to the phone that causes it to do a GPS fix and transmit the result back to the cell system. That was implemented for E911.

But the idea that the cell system can activate a phone which is turned off is complete garbage. If the phone is off, how does it receive the command to activate?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:07 PM on December 6, 2006


Particularly, "Any recently manufactured cell phone has a built-in tracking device, which can allow eavesdroppers to pinpoint someone's location to within just a few feet" rings the bullshit bell.
I think they are referring phones with GPS tracking capabilities. Generally used to track 911 calls from cellphones. Certainly not BS.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:07 PM on December 6, 2006


The thing is, "pinpoint" is kind of misleading. It's more like a few hundred meters than a few feet. With GPS that goes down to more like 50 meters, but only under the best of conditions.
posted by malaprohibita at 12:11 PM on December 6, 2006


If the phone is off, how does it receive the command to activate?

Yeah. I mean, it could be running off the battery that's already there, but that'll be pretty obvious.

"Hmm, my phone battery is dead, even though it's been turned off for the last month, while I was on vacation. Damn you, FBI!"
posted by muddgirl at 12:13 PM on December 6, 2006


But the idea that the cell system can activate a phone which is turned off is complete garbage. If the phone is off, how does it receive the command to activate?

Soft power is never really "off". Off is really a low power standby mode.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:13 PM on December 6, 2006


I have Sprint, and my phone had the gps tracking. It is used for 911 calls, for giving me the closest locations when I do an internet search, and according to my son, allows tracking all the phones on your bill, online.

I am torn between the creepy and the convenient.
posted by figment of my conation at 12:15 PM on December 6, 2006


Ok, I'm in the how do they listen in if the phone is off? crowd. I just don't see how this is possible. Anyone?
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2006


If the phone is off, how does it receive the command to activate?

Translation: If the phone is off, how does it receive the command to turn on?

I dunno. Perhaps I should call someone and ask. But my phone is off. NOOOOOOOOOO!

But seriously - off doesn't mean no activity. It just means most normal activity is suspended (ala standby mode on televisions). This is why I use planless pre-paid phones.

(Actually it isn't, that's just a hugely useful side benefit.
posted by Sparx at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2006


But the idea that the cell system can activate a phone which is turned off is complete garbage. If the phone is off, how does it receive the command to activate?

If I plug in my Motorola phone while it is off, the screen lights up and says it's being charged, starts flashing, etc. Even when off it really is in a low power consumption standby mode. It is conceivable that it could receive/transmit in this situation, if the firmware supported it.

The real tinfoil hat BS is the idea that any of this could happen if you remove the battery, that there's a "hidden" battery, etc. Battery tech just isn't there yet.

A related article was posted to Slashdot just yesterday or the day before, and makes some good points: http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000202.html

If you want to make sure the FBI/NSA/greys aren't using your phone as a bug, you could remove the battery, place it in a foil bag, any of a number of things.
posted by kableh at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2006


I love how they had to explain the 1984 reference.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:17 PM on December 6, 2006


id feel really stupid if this applies to webcams.
posted by phaedon at 12:18 PM on December 6, 2006


I've known this for more than a year, thanks to this AskMe.
The later comments are more informative than the earlier ones.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:19 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Bruce Schneier (one of my favorite writers ever since he coined the term "Security Theater" in reference to the TSA) blogged about this yesterday. Some good comments there.
posted by Bradley at 12:22 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


http://www.goldsofts.com/soft/524/36976/AGLAYA_Call_Magic.html

Here's a paid one, the free applet is around here somewhere....
posted by IronLizard at 12:24 PM on December 6, 2006


i actually sleep in a foil-lined bag.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 12:26 PM on December 6, 2006


Thanks for the Schneier, Bradley.
posted by malaprohibita at 12:29 PM on December 6, 2006


Very interesting. Thanks folks.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:31 PM on December 6, 2006


Look, for you skeptics out there: The modern cell phone is like a really small computer with a built in soundcard/speaker/mic/net access. Nearly anything you can make your computer do, this thing can do in miniature. (No, it won't play WOW. Yet.) You've seen the spyware/viruses your pc's get infested with? Well, there's been at least one virus for phones too.
posted by IronLizard at 12:33 PM on December 6, 2006


I am torn between the creepy and the convenient.

Yeah, I feel the same way about ATM/Debit cards and "Shopper's Club" cards at supermarkets. Consequently, it becomes a risk/reward scenario, which is why I use ATM/Debit cards and don't use "Shopper's Club" cards.

By the way, did you know an off-the-shelf Sony baby monitor, when placed within several feet of your phone, will tell you if your phone is connected to a tower?
posted by davejay at 12:43 PM on December 6, 2006


No, when my phone is off, it is OFF. Not in standby, not in hibernation... OFF. How would they track it when it is OFF?
posted by grubi at 12:43 PM on December 6, 2006


At least one virus for phones
posted by rxrfrx at 12:43 PM on December 6, 2006


Grubi, the point is that the only way to TRULY turn off a cellphone is to remove all power from it, by removing the battery. Otherwise, you're most likely in low-power mode, unless your phone is ancient.
posted by davejay at 12:45 PM on December 6, 2006


I love how they had to explain the 1984 reference.

True story: my girlfriend is a reference librarian at the public library. One day she had to request a copy of 1984 from another branch. She called the reference librarian at that branch and asked that they send her branch 1984 by George Orwell. The other librarian paused, sounded confused, and then asked for the title of the book.
posted by SBMike at 12:49 PM on December 6, 2006


But the idea that the cell system can activate a phone which is turned off is complete garbage. If the phone is off, how does it receive the command to activate?

Steven, you used to work on cell phones and should really know better. Use a little common sense. Note that knee-jerk skepticism is not common sense.

A pwned phone can have an alarm set to turn itself quietly on at a specified time, or possibly on a bluetooth signal(?). For that matter, why not just have the software simulate the 'off' mode on the display, while still remaining connected?

With so much software on the phone, all the potential flaws of regular computer systems find a new domain. A classic method of attack is to simulate one state while actually running in another.

You can't KNOW your phone is really off without pulling the battery or detecting a signal from it, since ALL the display screens and LEDs can be controlled by the software.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:05 PM on December 6, 2006


There was a day not so long ago when people didn't all carry cell phones. The world worked in exactly the same way as it does today.
posted by OmieWise at 1:11 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]



OmieWise:

"Bleyer: And I guess the Internet has really come to be the pinnacle of this hurtful technology, in our age.

Wilson: Yes. You’re slumped in front of a screen, in the same physical situation as a TV watcher, you’ve just added a typewriter. And you’re "interactive." What does that mean? It does not mean community. It’s catatonic schizophrenia. So blah blah blah, communicate communicate, data data data. It doesn’t mean anything more than catatonics babbling and drooling in a mental institution. Why can’t we stop? How is it that five years ago there were no cell phones, and now everyone needs a cell phone? You can pick up any book by any half-brained post-Marxist jerkoff and read about how capitalism creates false needs. Yet we allow it to go on." [emphasis added, more]
posted by bukharin at 1:17 PM on December 6, 2006 [5 favorites]


The important thing to me isn't whether or not they can eavesdrop when the phone is off. How often do you carry around a powered-down cell phone anyway? The fact that they can bug you when you're not using the phone; that's the interesting thing here.
posted by designbot at 1:17 PM on December 6, 2006


Yeah, I feel the same way about ATM/Debit cards and "Shopper's Club" cards at supermarkets. Consequently, it becomes a risk/reward scenario, which is why I use ATM/Debit cards and don't use "Shopper's Club" cards.

From a talk by Bruce Schneier at Brown that I recently attended, you may be interested to note that if a retailer doesn't track you by their shopper card, they're tracking you by your debit card. Add up all the transaction records from credit cards, debit cards, retailer shopper purchase records, cell phone use, landline use, check writing, EZ-Pass, On-Star, library records, security card swipes, google searches, recording cameras in public and private places, and everything else that can be traced via your computer's IP number, and there's a pretty complete picture of you right there. What could somebody do with all that data if they could aggregate every shred of it?

Note too that there are rules about what data the government can collect. There are different rules about what corporations and third parties can collect. But there are not any rules about whether they can buy data from each other.

Hmmmm....
posted by BlackPebble at 1:18 PM on December 6, 2006


Okay, as a former wireless data network analyst for a large international wireless provider, I feel qualified to state a couple of things:

1. You cannot remotely turn a phone on. Phones maintain no connection to the network whatsoever when they're off, even the ones that don't really turn their power totally off, like Treos. That's just silly. It takes an awful lot of power to stay on the network and from a design standpoint, the phone's radio is always the first thing you'd cut power to.

2. SOME phones can be used to remote listening devices, but that requires special firmware. VERY FEW phones allow for remote firmware updates. MOST phones allow for program installation via WAP push, but MOST of those also require the user to okay the install. A FEW phones do allow the provider to install software on the phone that would accomplish what is described in such a way that the casual user probably wouldn't notice.

3. Phones are widely variant in terms of what operating systems and hardware architecture they use. So, J. Random Government Agency would need to have software appropriate to your specific make and model of phone.

4. As regards GPS/E911, GPS is not the same as E911. Very few phones actually have real GPS. Real GPS triangulates from GPS satellites. E911 triangulates from signal strength and cell tower locations. This, of course, only works if your phone is on. E911 is actually pretty darn accurate. It works a lot better if you're actually on a call or otherwise active on the network rather than just idling, but in the right situations (like big cities) and with enough cell towers E911 can actually get centimeter accuracy. Most of the time, though, it's maybe a few hundred meters at best. At worst, in rural areas, you'll be able to tell where someone's at within a couple of miles.
posted by signalnine at 1:25 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


There was a day not so long ago when people didn't all carry cell phones. The world worked in exactly the same way as it does today.


No, the world did not work the same way. You couldn't communicate last minute changes of plans or coordinate spur of the moment meet ups. There are indeed some things that cell phones make easier.
posted by spicynuts at 1:26 PM on December 6, 2006


I should add that a lot of Nextel phones DO support actual GPS as opposed to just E911.
posted by signalnine at 1:28 PM on December 6, 2006


bukharin--That interview was GREAT! Thanks. I've got to say that I became disenchanted with PLW after TAZ took on too much prominence as a kind of hip excuse to take drugs. It's nice to be reminded that he's a pretty radical guy.
posted by OmieWise at 1:30 PM on December 6, 2006


MetaFilter: It doesn’t mean anything more than catatonics babbling and drooling in a mental institution.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:32 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]



And, BlackPebble, Karl Rove famously bought credit card records to target undecided voters by their purchases. (A subscriber to a hunting magazine might be more likely than someone who attends yoga classes, for instance.) And then sent them specially tailored propaganda.

The Soviet Union utilized the vast database that had been collected by tsarist bureaucracies on its citizens to conduct the monumental purges of the 1930s.

The key thing about news like this is not that each of us individually is at risk of being monitored. Rather, it's the stifling effect that such tools have on the potential for opposition in this country. Labor and environmental movements, anti-war movements, rival factions within government administrations and political parties, can all have this used against them. And should democracy fail us in the future (which is hardly inconceivable at this point) there is no telling what a determined and powerful party could do with this kind of aggregate information; or, for that matter, what they're doing with it now.

And to those of us who say, well, I don't break the law, therefore it's not a problem to me. Well, the law is often wrong, and it's often used as a means of cultural or political war on a groups of people. The war on drugs, for instance, has been far less successful at stopping addiction than it was at breaking up the Black Power movement and the cultural opposition of the 1960s.
posted by bukharin at 1:33 PM on December 6, 2006


Hey bukharin, have you noticed that you are the only person in this entire thread who has (twice) mentioned the idea of people dismissing this because they don't break the law?

Perhaps you're preaching to the wrong audience?
posted by tkolar at 1:41 PM on December 6, 2006



tkolar, not preaching, just being verbal with my own thoughts about it. There's been some discussion above about data collection by governments and corporations and general infringements of privacy. I was engaging that conversation in the thread by citing historical examples, and not actively arguing with anyone. However, your vigilance is appreciated. I wouldn't want to waste anyone's time by agreeing with them.
posted by bukharin at 1:52 PM on December 6, 2006


Grubi, the point is that the only way to TRULY turn off a cellphone is to remove all power from it, by removing the battery.

Even then there could be a sekrit capacitator or even another teeny tiny battery inside, holding a charge and selling you out...
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:58 PM on December 6, 2006


as a former wireless data network analyst for a large international wireless provider, I feel qualified to state a couple of things

As a software engineer for one of the largest producers of cell phones in the world, I feel qualified to comment. My coworker one cube over previously worked for our PCS division, if that helps.

1. You cannot remotely turn a phone on. Phones maintain no connection to the network whatsoever when they're off, even the ones that don't really turn their power totally off, like Treos. That's just silly. It takes an awful lot of power to stay on the network and from a design standpoint, the phone's radio is always the first thing you'd cut power to.

The standby time of most phones is several days. By standby, I mean time your phone is "on" but you aren't talking. In standby, the phone is mostly just listening and occasionally transmits to stay registered on the network.

Turning your phone "off" is purely a software function - I press and hold the End Call button on my phone to turn it on or off, and this is probably done in software by some task that monitors that button. It turns off the radio, and probably puts the microprocessor inside in a sleep mode which uses very little power, and occasionally wakes up to check the status of the buttons and so forth.

With that in mind, there is no reason that the firmware couldn't be made to give a phone the appearance of being "off", while occasionally trasmitting back to home base or working as a bug. Of course, this would be easily detectable to the tech savvy, as the article I linked above indicates.

Sure, you would need highly specialized firmware. Quick, can anyone think of a single case where a large telecommunications company cooperated with a government agency to spy on American citizens?
posted by kableh at 2:12 PM on December 6, 2006


Anybody here have Chloe O'Brian's direct number? I need to take her out for a few drinks....
posted by rob511 at 2:16 PM on December 6, 2006


I remember reading that some reporters taken to restricted zones were requited not to just turn off their cell phones but to remove the batteries! Are the phones ever really off? Just neurotic, but this is public so *patriotically neurotic*
posted by sammyo at 2:17 PM on December 6, 2006


Orwell saw this surveillance culture coming. He saw the pliant, sheep-like populace coming as well. What he didn't predict was that citizens would pay for the privilege of being spied upon by their government overlords.

OnStar, Cell subscriptions, folks actually trade in their own money to have their liberty abridged.

I don't remember who said it, but I can paraphrase the quote - "The thing about paranoia is that you only need to be right once to make it all worthwhile."
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:20 PM on December 6, 2006


kableh: Yes, you're correct. You would, however need to modify the phone's actual firmware to get that to work, however. I've never ever seen a phone can will take a firmware update over-the-air. OTA updates are pretty much limited to settings changes and WAP push functions. If there are any phones that'll do that, I've never seen one. I've heard tell that very early CDMA phones could, which is why I stated that VERY FEW do, to my knowledge.
posted by signalnine at 2:20 PM on December 6, 2006


There's plenty of reason to think the government might require cell phone manufacturers to include these capabilities. The government has mandated inclusion of wiretapping ability in technology before. Nothing described is beyond the technology available today. Even waking the phone up when it's supposed to be off isn't that extreme. We're not talking magic here.

Aren't we excited that analog networks are going dark? Soon every phone will be trackable (thanks E911! Too bad you can't disable the gps receiver) and wiretap-able.

Boiling the frog. It works (but not literally). This kind of thing just makes me nauseous.
posted by polyhedron at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2006


Why would you need a firmware update if the functionality is already built into every phone with an agreement like the color printer document tracking thing?
posted by the jam at 2:34 PM on December 6, 2006


The real tinfoil hat BS is the idea that any of this could happen if you remove the battery

can you say "capacitor"?

i knew you could!
posted by quonsar at 2:43 PM on December 6, 2006


the jam:
If there were, you'd be able to trip it with a SEEM editor. Phone hackers would have already discovered it, they're a pretty anal bunch. It's possible that by some miracle that no one has figured it out yet, but pretty unlikely.
posted by signalnine at 2:43 PM on December 6, 2006


What am I missing here? Why so much debate about whether this is tinfoil hattery or not? The article is about an actual court case in which the technology was used by the FBI in a criminal investigation. The point here, it seems to me, is not to discuss whether or not it's technically feasible to do this (obviously, it is, since the FBI actually did it in the case that came before the courts in the linked article), the real question is what are the implications of the court ruling, isn't it?
posted by saulgoodman at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


quonsar:
Do you have any idea how much power a cap would have to have to maintain a network connection without a battery? It'd be a pretty big capacitor, capable of delivering at least 200mah to last on standby for a day or so. They're large, expensive and very noticable.
posted by signalnine at 2:48 PM on December 6, 2006


Why so much debate about whether this is tinfoil hattery or not?

Well, my question is whether this was an isolated case where they went and got ahold of his actual cellphone, flashed the firmware or replaced it with a lookalike preloaded with software or whether they actually were able to do this remotely without any physical intervention.
posted by signalnine at 2:51 PM on December 6, 2006


You’re slumped in front of a screen, in the same physical situation as a TV watcher, you’ve just added a typewriter. And you’re "interactive." What does that mean?

wilson doesn't have a clue, so why is he going on about it? ... i'm certainly not one of those that thinks the internet is all good or that it's "changing the world", but his diatribe against it is ridiculous ... (as ridiculous as claiming that americans don't make anything any more - we do at MY job)

considering that the internet is responsible, for the most part, for his ideas becoming known, i think his rant is pretty ignorant ... in fact, somewhere in the last 20 years, he's stopped thinking forward and he's now indulging in reactionary cant

at least that's how he came off there

(oh, i don't have a cell phone ... you can't find ME!!)
posted by pyramid termite at 3:00 PM on December 6, 2006


I'm with saulgoodman on this one. It's interesting that the technology is here to do this now, but I think the court's reaction to it is interesting as well.

My feeling overall, though, is not terribly paranoid. I find this much less troubling than the NSA's warrantless wiretap of Americans program. This sounds like an application of new technology to an old problem, but with the same restrictions-that you need a warrant to listen in on someone. Now, the idea of this technology being used by the NSA's wiretapping program is pretty bone-chilling. But so is the program in general.

But the development of the technology alone...I'm not so worried.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2006


pt-What are you talking about? I read TAZ before there was a WWW, and before I'd even used email. So had all the anarchists I knew. Semiotext(e) and Autonomedia were quite well known as publishing companies, Autonomedia USA had been out for years before the WWW was developed. Which doesn't much matter. He's free to not care for the way people might have heard of him: would you expect him to be happy had people read about him in Entertainment Weekly?

Regardless, his points all seem pretty good. What part of "There is currently no revolution, and the anarchic promise of the internet has proved a chimeric mask for commodity fetishism in the name of international capitalism" seems wrong to you?
posted by OmieWise at 3:33 PM on December 6, 2006


What are you talking about?

i'm talking about a self-professed luddite who thinks he's qualified to judge technology he's not even willing to touch ...

my point remains, in spite of how you may have heard of him ... and of course, we wouldn't have even read his interview or be discussing it without the net, would we?

and he thinks that's irrelevant? ... it's not

What part of "There is currently no revolution, and the anarchic promise of the internet has proved a chimeric mask for commodity fetishism in the name of international capitalism" seems wrong to you?

it's a gross generalization ... he's actually depending on how the mass media describe the internet to critique it ... and of course, if he goes by what they say about it, all he's going to see is commodity fetishism

by the way, there WAS a revolution ... it started around 1979 and involves computers ... he wasn't paying attention

as far as a political revolution in the usa goes ... it's not that likely and hasn't been that likely for a long time ... considering the current mood of the people ... or the likely mood of the people should everything go to hell, we should be grateful for that
posted by pyramid termite at 4:31 PM on December 6, 2006


(Parenethetically, and on a point likely to be of limited interest: OmieWise is correct, pt. I'd argue that Wilson was proportionally better-known on the antiauthoritarian left before the Internet gave any random autonoschmo a platform and a bully pulpit. TAZ was epochal for a lot of people - at the time.

However. Although there's certainly a case to be made that accusing someone of pedophilia is this generation's surefire way to spread panick and general FUD about someone, I have a very hard time with any conversation that accords Wilson/Bey OK status. He's a child raper and advocate of same. Yuck.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:00 PM on December 6, 2006


It takes an awful lot of power to stay on the network and from a design standpoint, the phone's radio is always the first thing you'd cut power to.

You seem to forget, the power is mostly used in transmission from the phone. Receiving data/voice takes very little power. Yet why all this trouble, even? Just send it over the airwaves when your subject turns the phone on once and your 'update' is in there for good. These little 'must push a button to download' features? Now that's something you can change with 1 bit in the firmware.

So, J. Random Government Agency would need to have software appropriate to your specific make and model of phone.


Oh, you're right. How could they possibly have the resources to do that?

Sure, you would need highly specialized firmware.
Two or three for every major manufacturer? That's what, A whole twenty or thirty bits of hacked software? And why do you insist this must all be done in firmware, anyway? Hell I've shown you three examples in software, already.
posted by IronLizard at 5:33 PM on December 6, 2006


> I am torn between the creepy and the convenient.

>> Yeah, I feel the same way about ATM/Debit cards and "Shopper's Club" cards at supermarkets. Consequently, it becomes a risk/reward scenario, which is why I use ATM/Debit cards and don't use "Shopper's Club" cards.

I've been diagnosed as paranoid more than once, but ATM cards and "Shoppers Club" cards don't scare me -- I use both. These cards are convenient and I really don't care who knows that I buy coffee and I'd rather get it cheap. I can see one or two ways this data can be used against me, but it's pretty far-fetched even by my standards.

The problem with being tracked and bugged is different: for one thing if the FBI can do it other Shady People can, and for another, well, I don't know how to break this to y'all but just because somebody works for the Government does not automatically mean they can be trusted. Y'all might also consider that the pigs can gather data on you and use it against you outside of a courtroom, that it can be used to get them information they can legally bring up in court -- or to set you up for some reason (as in "we won't tell your wife you're screwing the baby sitter if you help us bring down your brother-in-law who's telling people not to pay taxes").

Please absorb these points:

1) Unless the spooks bring it up in court nobody knows they've been secretly bugging you without a warrant. The trick is to frame the information they gather from whatever sources, technically legal or not, into a plausible story to put before the judge and jury. ("How did they KNOW to tell the Wal-Mart security guy to point the camera at that corner of the parking lot just then?")

2) Nobody says YOU have to be the target of they're snooping; they could be using you as a means to an end to get somebody else. They never have to tell you (or anybody) they've done so either.
posted by davy at 6:09 PM on December 6, 2006


Paranoia: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't following you.
posted by crispynubbins at 6:11 PM on December 6, 2006


But the idea that the cell system can activate a phone which is turned off is complete garbage. If the phone is off, how does it receive the command to activate?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:07 PM PST on December 6


Just out of curiosity, how is it you're wrong so often? I mean, it's like your head is filled with incorrect premises.
posted by delmoi at 6:28 PM on December 6, 2006


he's republican.
posted by quonsar at 6:40 PM on December 6, 2006


No, he's a fat, misogynist anime enthusiast well above the age of majority. Red flags everywhere.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:01 PM on December 6, 2006


Anyone know what would happen with my cell if I plugged in my "ear bud" adapter and cut the cord, would the cell pick anything up? Is it hardware that switches between the two mics?
posted by bobo123 at 7:36 PM on December 6, 2006


glad i don't have a cell phone. who's the crazy one now?
posted by brandz at 9:03 PM on December 6, 2006



What part of "There is currently no revolution, and the anarchic promise of the internet has proved a chimeric mask for commodity fetishism in the name of international capitalism" seems wrong to you?

ummm... the words? the order they're placed in and what they're trying to communicate?

That part seems wrong to me.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:41 PM on December 6, 2006


This is why I be committin all my crimes in sign language. It throws off the cops, too, because they're looking for some guy who's a deaf-mute, but they don't know that I can totally talk.
posted by Eideteker at 9:47 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ever had someone's cell dial you up by accident (like a button gets pressed), and you answer and hear...what? Mostly noise, occasionally maybe a word comes through. But really, not very much. Maybe some wizard with sound enhancing software can extract more meaning from the noise, but how much?

This would probably be much worse in the case of a phone with hands-free, in the car. Of course, it would depend on where/how the phone is carried (and mine's probably bad, because I wear mine on a lanyard). But inside suit pockets or leather cases on the belt, not so much.

Of course, now that the word is out, the professional criminals will all be savy and deal with their phones in an appropriate way. It will only become a tool for listening in on citizens going about routine matters. Maybe something blackmail worthy, but not much more.

Lends more use to this cellphone bag, I linked to the other day.
posted by Goofyy at 10:28 PM on December 6, 2006


On the other hand those bluetooth headsets are getting pretty popular.
posted by Mitheral at 10:58 PM on December 6, 2006


Ever had someone's cell dial you up by accident (like a button gets pressed), and you answer and hear...what?

Yes. I got a 20-minute message of my friend driving to work with his phone in his pants pocket, singing along to the radio, swearing at other drivers, and mumbling his paranoid conspiracies and strange fantasies to 'himself'.

He was terribly embarrassed when I played it back to him.
posted by Pinback at 12:48 AM on December 7, 2006



Yeah, I've accidentally called people and they were able to listen to entire conversations. In a relatively quiet room it works pretty well.

Well, drjimmy, "there is no revolution" - does that ring wrong to you? "the anarchic promise of the Internet " - I've heard quite a bit from younger people about how the revolution will be wiki'd, or whatever. And while it's proved an important tool, it's not the same as opening up communes or actually organizing people or taking over campuses or going on strike, etc. In the end it's just something to do between Amazon purchases.

But this isn't the thread for that.
posted by bukharin at 10:46 AM on December 7, 2006


And while it's proved an important tool, it's not the same as opening up communes or actually organizing people or taking over campuses or going on strike, etc.

Yeah, because a revolution by definition involves violent social upheaval. It's no fun otherwise.

Ah, I remember the heady days of the Automobile revolution. Some thought that personal transport on that scale would slowly and subtly change the way that Americans lived, worked, and thought about their lives. The fools thought that cities would gradually grow to be huge metropoli where a complete reliance on the personal auto became the norm. They thought that the majestic railroads would over a period of many years fall into disrepair and neglect. They thought that every last aspect of people's lives would slowly and peacefully come to be shaped by this new technology.

Fortunately, given a historical perspective we know what really happened: immediately after the first automobile hit the roads, violent civil wars broke out all around the world. Death and destruction reigned. Cats and dogs lived together. It was, in fact, mass hysteria. But it was worth it, because it lead to where we live today, the inevitable utopian paradise that is the natural result of all technological revolutions.
posted by tkolar at 11:47 AM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


It seems like at least some phones have this capability (hence the court case), but if all phones can be used this way, why aren't they used that way more often? 911 calls for example tend to be wrongly routed from cell phones, and take forever to get through. OK, chalk that one up to beurocracy, but why weren't James Kim and family tracked this way? From the reports I read, their cell phone could only locate them within a certain area which is consistant with what signalnine said above.
posted by serazin at 12:56 PM on December 7, 2006


I see this was a local news story, which means they will go out their way (lie) to create fear and paranoia-- to hook viewers.

Therefore, I would say it's a safe bet that you cannot turn on a cell phone via a remote signal.

-0-

...when people didn't all carry cell phones... the world worked in exactly the same way as it does today.

This Seinfeld episode makes me think twice about that statement.

.. and this one, too. Or this... but especially this one.
posted by wfc123 at 2:16 PM on December 7, 2006



Uh, tkolar, civil disobedience by definition rejects violence; it is the antithesis of violent overthrow, it is instead the refusal of people to continue playing a game that perpetuates evil. It is based on the realization that we make this world work, we feed each other and we build things for each other and we are the ones who make sure that the project of civilization does not fail. Civil disobedience is the acceptance of that responsibility and the utilization of it to affect change.

The rant about automobiles is total bullshit. Civilization actually has greatly suffered from their use. And dependence on cheap, abundant supplies of energy will likely yet be our ruin.
posted by bukharin at 4:14 PM on December 7, 2006


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