Your Phone Records, Cheap
January 7, 2006 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Psst... I know you called your girlfriend last night. No, not the one you live with. The naughty hottie that she doesn't know about. I know this because I paid a website $110 to buy your cell-phone records, which they delivered in two hours. Did you know that your private phone records are for sale?
posted by digaman (49 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Digaman, I am willing to negotiate. Name your price.
posted by LarryC at 10:04 AM on January 7, 2006

Hmmm, this is the one who says she's "open-minded about kink" and "down for whatever," right? It's gonna cost ya. :)
posted by digaman at 10:07 AM on January 7, 2006

This is why always borrow someone elses phone to call the escort service.

Seriously, the time seems to be approaching when the government and corporations will have completely eroded any expectation of privacy we might have in this country.
posted by TedW at 10:35 AM on January 7, 2006

Does anybody do this for land lines too? If not, why just cell phones?
posted by davy at 10:37 AM on January 7, 2006

I always use my wife's phone to call my mistresses, that way, when I "find" them I can get angry at her for cheating with a hot chick and not including me.

Seriously, this is pretty fucked up right here.
posted by fenriq at 10:43 AM on January 7, 2006

davy, check the first link, there's a little link in their navbar for Landline searches too. Good to know you read the links before commenting.
posted by fenriq at 10:44 AM on January 7, 2006

truly disgusting. I expect that this story will get blown up in the media and I expect that a law banning this will be passed in several states.

I expect the cell carriers are going to take some heat for this as well.

or am I just too naive?
posted by daHIFI at 10:46 AM on January 7, 2006

Ist Source Information
c/o Network Solutions
P.O. Box 447
Herndon, VA. 20172-0447
Name Server: WSC1.JOMAX.NET
Name Server: WSC2.JOMAX.NET

Presumably this is perfectly legal in USA? There's nothing on the website that explains where they get the info. Maybe a side business of the carriers? They always grant themselves the right to do whatever they want in their so-called "privacy policies".
posted by jam_pony at 10:46 AM on January 7, 2006

(fenriq, expect revenge!)
posted by davy at 10:53 AM on January 7, 2006

Previously discussed here.
posted by horsewithnoname at 11:02 AM on January 7, 2006

As awful as this sounds, this is not exactly anything new. Private detectives make a living social engineering this kind of data out of companies.

Cell phone companies also keep records of all your text messages. Wonder how hard it is to buy those? Not just the traffic pattern, but the actual traffic.
posted by Nelson at 11:03 AM on January 7, 2006

I can't believe that this is legal. This is an outrageous invasion of privacy.

I might just write to the local Chamber of Commerce for Herndon, VA and ask them how and why this company is allowed to operate this incredibly invasive business.

davy, revenge for pointing out that you didn't even bother to click the first link? Um yeah sure, whatever.
posted by fenriq at 11:10 AM on January 7, 2006

In Columbia the drug cartels bought the phone records of every single person and ran the records through an IBM mainframe supercomputer, which spat out a list of all the people who called suspected DEA informants.

They used this information to wipe out all suspected informants.
posted by delmoi at 11:17 AM on January 7, 2006

Veronica Mars is cheaper.

Besides your wife is probably smart enough to save money by just looking at the call log on your mobile. That way you don't see that she put $110 on credit card and she can drop the bomb on your unprepared ass in mid-argument or take it as license for her own extracurriculars.
posted by srboisvert at 11:18 AM on January 7, 2006

fenriq, Herndon is the location of Network Solutions, the domain name company. It's just a mail drop for the website operators. may be their ISP though.
posted by jam_pony at 11:21 AM on January 7, 2006

I'm frightened that this doesn't surprise or frighten me in the least. It seems I've been conditioned to accept this type of invasion of privacy as inevitable and that I am powerless to prevent it. That acceptance is far more disturbing than the the invasion itself. I'm in my mid-20s, I don't know if this is an age thing, but if it is and if I'm not an anomaly, we're screwed.
posted by Grod at 11:21 AM on January 7, 2006

delmoi, that's one abuse that I could see. Another would be to enter a Hollywood agent's number (or, say, Scott Boras') and get a whole bunch of celeb's or athlete's numbers and publish them online.

Or to even dig up dirt to blackmail your boss with.
posted by fenriq at 11:24 AM on January 7, 2006

I always use my wife's phone to call my mistresses, that way, when I "find" them I can get angry at her for cheating with a hot chick and not including me.

Dude. That's brilliant. Thanks.
posted by bingo at 11:26 AM on January 7, 2006

Some useful links (including opt-out links) can be found here.
posted by dopeypanda at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2006

dopeypanda, thanks for the link to opt-outs. I'm opting now!
posted by fenriq at 11:30 AM on January 7, 2006

I put my money on the NSA running this as a front operation so they can recoup some operating cost.... right?

posted by edgeways at 11:31 AM on January 7, 2006

If this is legal, legislation is definitely needed to make it illegal. If it's not legal, the law needs to be enforced with extreme prejudice.

I expect that now that the FBI's involved, it will be taken care of.
posted by kindall at 12:03 PM on January 7, 2006

Taken care of … with extreme prejudice.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:28 PM on January 7, 2006

lol! oh the outrage! "i spew my private communications into the ether and now i'm pissed that someone knows about them!" lol!
posted by quonsar at 12:31 PM on January 7, 2006

Jesus, I wish this story were true.
posted by NinjaPirate at 12:41 PM on January 7, 2006

Oh, no, I meant the one about me having another hottie girlfriend.
posted by NinjaPirate at 12:41 PM on January 7, 2006

This is why I always communicate with my illicit girlfriend using semaphore.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:44 PM on January 7, 2006

Yes, that's about the gist of it. What's so funny? I suppose the only way we can expect privacy is if we only communicate via hand-delivered notes written in a personally-developed secret code? Otherwise we're just being unreasonable.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:44 PM on January 7, 2006

I suppose the only way we can expect privacy is if we...

use encryption. but it's probably a better idea to get all outraged, and make it illegal to demodulate carriers, read, hear, and receive faxes sent to the wrong recipient.
posted by quonsar at 1:00 PM on January 7, 2006

use encryption

Uh uhm, come on you know what' would happen next ?

Crypto-anything is made illegal (and I guess it already is somehow) unless you work for the govt in the govt , because too strong crypto would protect your data too well and the criminals/terrorist would "win" ! Even if they already have crypto or could buy it easily regardless of laws ! You'd probably hear some why-do-you-hate-america so much kind of bullshit justifying taking away crypto from the masses.

Plus no amount of crypto would make information you don't have control on (like record of your telephone calls , made by telco companies) protectable and protected from more ordinary delinquents like scammers.Also this kind of information gathering activites wouldn't be under judiciary supervision and laws of disclosure to public.

Now you could argue that no amount or quality of technology can stop determined people from acquiring the data they want..but that supposes a determination backed by reseources a.k.a a cost..and a cost needs a revenue to be justified.

If the cost of doing a systematic investigation job on you becomes minimal then it may become economical to pick info on you, compare with other databases and profile you.Then of course it would be used to extract more value or money from you ; for instance by profiling you according to your economic indicators...and then treat you according to your estimated income and charge you more or less then others.

That would hardly fall under unfair discrimination , because it wouldn't be a sexual/religious/race based would literally fall under the radar of politicians because people wouldn't understand they're being discriminated because indicator XYZ-sigma says they're bad payers of chocolate flavoured cookies, therefore they need to pay health insurace more.

Of course one could not forbid industrialized collection and analysis of data , but forbid ways in which data can be used , butgood luck convincing people in days in which the Free Market theologicians make you believe free market is panacea.
posted by elpapacito at 2:24 PM on January 7, 2006

The Columbian incident delmoi mentioned is a fascinating read, by the way, as are similar cases.
posted by bhance at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2006

It is an interesting article, although it says plainly that the cartels did not buy the phone records legally but rather paid phone company employees to steal them: "the cartel had assembled a database that contained [...] the entire call log for the phone company in Cali, which was leaked by employees of the utility".
posted by nicwolff at 3:21 PM on January 7, 2006

nicwolf: next they'll buy data legally and know what will happen ? Here' s a realistic scenario : the ones doing the thinking in data correlation analysis are bought from universities at high price (thanks to insisting privatization of knowledge, they'll cost significantly more and become scarce) and when they'll inevitably FAIL at their job, being pressured too much into delivering results, Joe Six Pack whose number is 1-555-6996 will be mistaken for Joe Sex Pack whose number is 1-555-6969.

Nice eh :) ? Not when a bullet is going to be delivered to you because a geeky theoretician has been pressured into spitting an algorithm he wasn't give time (sometime years) to refine.
posted by elpapacito at 3:50 PM on January 7, 2006

"transparency" is great in gov't, but not in my private life.

Stay the fuck out of my life, is my message to everybody who I don't personally know, although my phone records, reflecting my pretty much normal, boring and legal life wouldn't be worth a dime to anyone.
posted by kozad at 4:17 PM on January 7, 2006

quonsar writes "use encryption."

We do.

All standard cell phone protocols are encrypted. I use a GSM phone, which is relies on three separate encryption algorithms. The security issue here is not a technical one: the actual voice data is not being intercepted and decrypted. Rather, this is a social engineering hack, in which the phone companies are deceived into revealing data. Since the companies themselves are apparently not sufficiently incentivized to put strong controls on these data, I think legislation providing such an incentive would be appropriate.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:42 PM on January 7, 2006

Nice link Mr_robot, couple lines are interesting

Although Kc is a 64-bit key, the COMP128 algorithm forces the last 10 bits to all zeros, effectively reducing it to a 54-bit key. It appears that the original designers, probably under pressure from intelligence and law enforcement agencies, deliberately weakened the protection that A5 provides.

There you go..brute social enginering aka "do that or you'll have problems with us later"

Each GSM network operator can basically implement whatever security routines they wish as long as the inputs and outputs match the definitions for A3 and A8. In addition, since A3 and A8 take the same inputs, a combined algorithm called A38 is also defined.

So there is no technical reason for implementing COMP128 weakened.

Even if it was made illegal to use cryptograpy on telephone networks, there would still be plenty ways that delinquents could use..but as a matter of fact non-white collar criminals already no longer use cellphone as they very easily reveal physical location of the need for James Bond style bugs when you wear a celly.
posted by elpapacito at 5:22 PM on January 7, 2006

Has anyone actually used this?

I mean, lets assume that these guys do what they say they say they can - and that its all legal and wonderful. But what if some other, less wonderful company, said that they could get you info on your wife. You pay them for all sorts of info on her, give them a credit card number, ss number, .... then maybe they don't deliver. What are you going to do? Complain? Call the cops? Tell your wife?

And what do you tell her when her identity gets stolen?

posted by R. Mutt at 5:55 PM on January 7, 2006

Hey, man, I didn't do it.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2006

John Aravosis from AMERICAblog bought his records, which apparently were accurate.

Am I missing something in their domain registry? "c/o Network Solutions" -- WTF? Will NS handle correspondence for domain registrants?
posted by aaronetc at 6:29 PM on January 7, 2006

I just called my cellphone company and opted out (thanks for the link, dopeypanda!).

All I needed was my cellphone number, acct #, name and address (as they appear on the bill). Presumably that's all that's needed to *remove* the restriction as well (it's an automated system, and the first menu option was for whether you wanted to establish or remove a prohibition.)

I think I'll be shredding my old cellphone bills ...
posted by nickp at 6:40 PM on January 7, 2006

bhance, thanks for the link to the Columbian story, its incredibly chilling to think how efficient and ruthless the drug trade has become.
posted by fenriq at 8:43 PM on January 7, 2006

Well, its always been ruthless but damn!
posted by fenriq at 8:43 PM on January 7, 2006

So, when married folks ditch their found-in-a-chat-room, short lived bangs, the psychos (who else dates from a chat room?) send your spouse the records of your endless phone sex calls to said psycho. Holy man.
posted by onegreeneye at 9:14 PM on January 7, 2006

How well do the services work? The Chicago Sun-Times paid $110 to to purchase a one-month record of calls for this reporter's company cell phone. It was as simple as e-mailing the telephone number to the service along with a credit card number. The request was made Friday after the service was closed for the New Year's holiday.

What kind of idiot sends a credit card number through email without encryption?!?! That someone would be that dumb is almost as shocking as the fact that you can buy phone records.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:58 AM on January 8, 2006

I expect that now that the FBI's involved, it will be taken care of.

You're kidding, right?

posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:50 AM on January 8, 2006

If the CIA got involved, they'd try to solve it by assassinating two third-world dictators.
posted by JHarris at 5:37 AM on January 8, 2006

You're kidding, right?

I'm serious. If John Q. Public can buy the call logs of FBI agents, the practice will be completely outlawed soon. The FBI won't stand for it. "National security" they'll squawk, and Congress will push some legislation through, and Bush'll sign it. Since they can't just outlaw selling the call logs of intelligence agents and law enforcement personnel without revealing who exactly those people are to the cell phone companies, they'll have to ban it entirely.

Of course, that won't stop the FBI from getting your call logs -- they never did need to buy them from third parties.
posted by kindall at 8:49 AM on January 8, 2006

One has to wonder what interesting things could be found in the call logs of our public servants and their lobbyist friends.

Just idle curiousity, ya know...
posted by deCadmus at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2006

When I posted about this, I called my carrier T-Mobile, who said they don't participate in CPNI. So that's good.
posted by riffola at 12:16 PM on January 12, 2006

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