Qwest Goes From Qworst To Qbest By Standing Up To NSA

from the doing-well-by-doing-good dept

One of the interesting items to emerge from the growing NSA data-monitoring scandal is that the telecoms weren't compelled to go along with the government and that one company, Qwest, refused to participate. Now the company, which had been a laggard and on the receiving end of many customer complaints, is experiencing a surge in customer appreciation from those opposed to the NSA program. Some customers have already switched providers, while on the internet people have set up pro-Qwest websites and added the company's logo to their own sites. Even if the boost is only temporary, it highlights the benefits from breaking from the pack. Imagine, for example, if one of the record labels decided to break from the RIAA cartel and adopt a more liberal attitude towards file sharing and online purchases. For that one company, it would instantly earn them a groundswell of support, and a sustainable way to differentiate itself -- at least until the others followed suit (remember, we're just imagining here). Business should constantly be on the lookout for areas where they can stand out from the pack; when competitors are engaging in customer-harming activities, there should be some compelling opportunities. In the meantime, the labels are still trying to differentiate themselves by adopting a more draconian approach to DRM, like in the case of the Sony BMG rootkit fiasco. That didn't turn out so well.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, May 15th, 2006 @ 9:17am

    Sometimes covering your butt looks good

    Well, it should be noted that the article that broke this story said Qwest did what it did out of fear of lawsuits. Sure enough, there's already one filed against Verizon.

     

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    Dan, May 15th, 2006 @ 9:32am

    wow!

    you mean to say that customers reward companies with their business when they actually protect their interests?

    unpossible!

     

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    identicon
    Searcher619, May 15th, 2006 @ 9:40am

    Ignorant Public

    This is so ridiculous. The general public is upset that the NSA has access to a list of numbers they call but weren't even bothered by Carnivore and Echelon. Those two programs are MUCH more invasive. They actually involve the copying of digital communications not just a bunch of identifying numbers. The Supreme Court ruled long ago that the data the NSA received does not belong to the people and there is no expectation of privacy. All the NSA got was the very same information the telcos provides it's customers on their billing statements. They don't have to provide the info to the customer but it's the only way to show the customer how the bill breaks down. What we are seeing here is knee jerk reaction. One the politicians were obviously banking on. Talk about manipulative. Things like this make me embarrassed to be an American. These things make the American people look like complete idiots. One word describes the average American. Sheep.

     

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      Joe Smith, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:51am

      Re: Ignorant Public

      This database is unlikely to be able to spot terrorist attacks in advance. The idea of data mining telephone records in exactly this way has obviously been floating around for quite a while and yet has not been successfully implemented. See for example, http://rationalinquiry.blogspot.com

      The database is however likely to be very useful in identifying whether or not a given Congressman has a mistress or is using escort services.

      If the database cannot realistically do the funtion the government puts forward as the justification for it, then we have every reason for asking what the real purpose and use of this database is.

       

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        Jeff, May 15th, 2006 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re: Ignorant Public

        If the database cannot realistically do the funtion the government puts forward as the justification for it, then we have every reason for asking what the real purpose and use of this database is. Exactly. The government used to be for the people.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2006 @ 11:58am

      Re: Ignorant Public

      Carnivore and Echelon do not target US persons.

       

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      Wink, May 16th, 2006 @ 10:06am

      Re: Ignorant Public

      I can feel your hate from here. Umm... of course the FBI hasen't used Canivore in years. So, you know, that ignorance charge against us 'sheep' might ring a bit hollow.

       

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      John Crossman, May 22nd, 2006 @ 8:38am

      Re: Ignorant Public

      Your'e right. 51% of the American public were sheep in 04. If you fall into that catigory you should be ashamed to call yourself an American but that's going to change because the lead sheep have already gone over the cliff. Hide and watch

       

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    James, May 15th, 2006 @ 9:50am

    Now it's the NSA "Scandal?" Scandals usually involve money; the only thing I see involved here is security. And if my phone records are illegally thrown into a data mining operation to improve national security, I've got no qualms with that.

    Are we going to lash out at the big airport security (they search you for bombs, and that's not freedom) scandal next?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:13am

      Re:

      So you don't care if it's Illegal? Do you mind if I rob your house to "improve" "security"?

       

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        Anonymous of Course, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:41am

        Are you now, or have you ever been...

        I can see why one might think that the NSA
        did something illegal in collecting this
        information.

        People with an axe to grind with the current
        administration have intentionally confused this
        with wire tapping.

        As they have confused the legality concerns for
        surveillance of intra-national and international
        telephone communications.

        I value my privacy, but both of these issues are
        so far down the list of concerns that it's laughable
        that people get worked up over them.

        Remember national ID cards... you're getting them.
        Federal requirements for driver's licenses were formulated
        soon after the bad reaction to the ID card proposal.
        I worked on an RFQ for a component used in the
        card reader might have been, eh, ten years ago.

        Facial recognition technology sucks but its still pushing
        ahead, DNA snipers are picking though the trash,
        cameras and microphones are being installed across many
        cities, collection of financial data and the analysis of such
        data is the most intrusive thing of all and it's considered
        ho-hum. But wait, there's much more... what books
        have you checked out of the library, what keywords
        have you searched.

        And you're outraged about lists of phone numbers.
        Sorry pal, while you were asleep the privacy yacht
        has already sailed away.

         

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        identicon
        James, May 15th, 2006 @ 1:21pm

        Re: Re:

        Yes, robbing my house is on par with data mining my phone records.

         

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      identicon
      John Bailey, May 26th, 2006 @ 6:53am

      Re:

      "And if my phone records are illegally thrown into a data mining operation to improve national security, I've got no qualms with that"

      Ahh.. the old I have nothing to hide, so I have nothing to fear routine.

      So can you prove that you are not a terrorist then? Because I don't know of anybody who can. All it takes is one link through a third party or a wrong number to flag you up on the database, then you suddenly find yourself assisting those nice homeland security people with their enquiries. Or perhaps your phone gets lost or stolen, and is used to call someone who knows the second cousin of someone who knows someone on the suspected list. Can you prove byond unreasonable doubt that you lost that phone exactly when you said you did? Bear in mind that in the interests of national security, you don't have access to a lawyer, and you may not be told what evidence is being used against you.

      But hey.. don't worry, its for national security. Just like that 80 year old nun and who knows how many others who got interrogated every time they tried to board a plane recently.

       

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    Just One Guy, May 15th, 2006 @ 9:55am

    No

    Imagine, for example, if one of the record labels decided to break from the RIAA cartel and adopt a more liberal attitude towards file sharing and online purchases.

    Joe, come on... customers do not choose record labels because of their policies wrt digital right management. Customers choose record labels simply because they really choose artists, and artists chose record labels.

    This is the damning situation of the content industry, where artists (which is what people is really interested in) are signed to specific record labels, and I will not buy records from artists I don't like, if they are signed up to labels whose policies I appreciate. Conversely, most people will keep on buying records from artists they like, even though they are signed to labels whose policies are abominable.

    Though, but that is the way it works.

     

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      Jay, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:02am

      Re: No

      However, you might choose to PURCHASE only music by artists you like on record labels whose policies you agree with. And choose then to download or pirate music by artists you like that are on labels you do not like.

       

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      ehrichweiss, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:50am

      Re: No

      "Joe, come on... customers do not choose record labels because of their policies wrt digital right management. Customers choose record labels simply because they really choose artists, and artists chose record labels."

      You don't speak for all of us with that. *I* definitely do not buy from record labels who use DRM, nor do I download their music to avoid paying for it either. I also encourage bands to put their music online for free and to make their money at concerts.

      Now back to the topic at hand, if I had Qwest as an option in my area, they'd have my business in the matter of minutes. Many people are service-oriented, not product/price oriented. This means you could give me a great deal on a decent product and I would still choose a product that gives me better and more flexible service despite a higher price.

       

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    Jay, May 15th, 2006 @ 9:59am

    Good News

    You are very WRONG, Searcher619. The rest of the world likely sees this as the straw that broke the camel's back and FINALLY got the ignorant American public to start caring about the crimes being committed against them. The other things you mention may very well be worse than this incident, but that's no reason to ignore this incident like the rest of them. People are finally holding government to account, and if this program is what makes it happen then GREAT! Americans look a whole lot stupider to the rest of the world when they just sit back and let themselves be taken advantage of without doing anything about it.

     

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    Searcher619, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:05am

    Crimes?

    What crime has been commited? Give me a break. The Supreme Court ruled on this issue LONG ago. Nothing they did in this case is against the law. Get your facts right my friend. Now if we are talking about Echelon and Carnivore then maybe you have a leg to stand on. But as far as the NSA getting a list of phone numbers from the telcos... sorry. Nothing there. 100% legal.

     

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    LJ, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:05am

    Two questions that I'd suggest everyone ask themselves:

    First, do the ends justisfy the means? Is it okay for the executive branch to do an end run around the other two branches to accomplish their stated goals?

    Second, do you trust the government to always and only use this information for the stated purpose? Might they one day use this for identifying domestic criminal activity? How about for tracking down political dissidents?

    Government officials have repeatedly lied about the extent of these surveillance activities, only acknowledging them when called on it, but repeatedly claiming to "fiercely protect" our privacy. This doesn't exactly shout "trust" to me.

     

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    Qorrupt, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:18am

    Not your friend

    Having worked at Qwest, but not knowing too many details about this NSA thing, I rest assured that if it had in any way profited the company or it's management to sellout it's customers to the government they would have jumped at the chance. Qwest is NOT a noble company by any stretch of the imagination. Strike up a conversation with a Qwest engineer for enough horror stories to fill an afternoon. Or two. More likely they are uncomfortable with big brother getting access to anything that has to do with their business practices at all. But like I say, I don't know too much about this, only that Qwest is dirty as hell.

     

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      qwestTL, Dec 18th, 2006 @ 9:34pm

      Re: Not your friend

      Qorrupt is probably a little sore about being let go. I work for Qwest, my customer service reps receive approximately 3 customer submitted commendations per rep on desk per day. Our Technicians are rated #1 for the 2nd year in a row by J.D. Power. We are rated by OUR CUSTOMERS as the best choice for single provider of High Speed internet, Digital TV services and Digital voice..Comcast is rated over 20% lower. If we are this bad...I can't imagine the competition. Qwest is a company that strives to love our customers and do the right thing. We are the company that WE employees want to buy our services from. The decision was based on what was fair and right. Argue this all day or ask the Qwest executives. One of the VPs will gladly accept an email and reply! I spoke to one about a customer impacting issue just last saturday... Call any Qwest Cust svc rep and request the info...

       

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    R Ahrens, May 15th, 2006 @ 11:29am

    lega or useful

    Actually, I read an essay the other day that puts this in another legal framework. According to this lawyer, the telcos have language in the user agreement you sign to join up that allows them to provide information to the government in cases of national security. According to this analysis, the information provided under this agreement (phone numbers and what other phone numbers may have been called, NOT names or addresses) is perfectly legal, not even covered by privacy laws.

    Of what use is this? Simple, its been described as a networking thing. If they know what phone numbers are being used by known or identified terrorists in or outside of the country, they can, with this database, determine what network of phone numbers are part of that terrorist's contact list. So without even knowing what the conversations contain, they can further investigate who these contacts may be, essentially boiling the information needing to be scrutinized by the limited personnel resources available to a manageable amount. Some of that can even be used to obtain warrants for actual wiretaps or searches and eventually perhaps, arrest warrants.

    What the news media won't tell you is the massive amounts of information contained in mass data mining, which is what this is. And the NSA, much less the rest of the intelligence community, has VERY limited resources with the security classification necessary to work on these programs. So to expect that they have any interest in wading through gigabytes or terabytes of information looking for individual tax payers, is ludicrous - they're looking for patterns, not tax dodgers.

     

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      Joe Smith, May 15th, 2006 @ 12:10pm

      Re: lega or useful

      So to expect that they have any interest in wading through gigabytes or terabytes of information looking for individual tax payers, is ludicrous - they're looking for patterns, not tax dodgers.

      Except that if you are targetting one person you don't need to wade through terabytes of data (the database would actually approach a pentabyte pretty quickly if it was comprehensive and you include the indexes). All you need to do is look up what numbers that person is in communication with.

      You may say that it is ridiculous to suggest that such a thing would happen. After Iran/Contra, Watergate and Valerie Plame I don't think that any such suggestion is ridiculous. Particularly when you consider that NSA is already talking about cooperating with the FBI and the DEA on the use of the database.

       

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      Mischa, May 15th, 2006 @ 7:13pm

      Re: lega or useful

      I have a problem with the whole "for national security" thing. Our current government is doing a lot of things "for national security" that don't, when you come right down to it, do anything to truly improve our security.

      In fact, this type of data mining is more likely to generate so many false positives that it ends up being a huge waste of time. Just because someone with phone A called phone B who later called phone C who then called phone D doesn't mean that the people at phone D have any knoweldge of or relationship to the people at phone A.

       

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    Joe Public, May 15th, 2006 @ 11:36am

    Nothing to worry about?

    If what the NSA and the telco's did was so "legal" and innocuous, then we have to ask why wouldn't the NSA comply with Qwest's request for authorization from the Atty Gen or the FISA court?

    We also need to ask why such a database is necessary. What are the odds of detecting "terrorist" calling patterns?

    Erosion of rights always begins with "just this ONE little thing."

    Let the lawsuits begin.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2006 @ 1:11pm

    artists dont choose their record labels...
    the labels choose them.

    and some 'labels' kind-of already tried the pro-filesharing approach.... not exactly a label, but cdnow (remember them?) supported napster because some surveys suggested that it was a 50/50 split whether or not filesharing caused people to buy more music or just to pirate it. So they figured if half would buy more CDs, let try it.

    cdnow was eventually swallowed by Bertelsmann (BMG).


    So in both cases... it doesn't work.

    -E

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2006 @ 8:27pm

    Osama bin Laden really appreciates the work that Qwest does to help his efforts. I am sure that drug dealers, child molesters, rapists and other criminals will flock to Qwest.

    Take off your fucking tin foil hats, and realize that there are people out there that want Americans dead (outside of liberal treehuggers) and that we are not in Kansas anymore. Course, in the event of another attack, I am sure everyone out there will bitch that GWB wasn't doing enough.

     

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    Laughing, May 16th, 2006 @ 1:56am

    Osama bin Laden really appreciates the work that Qwest does to help his efforts. I am sure that drug dealers, child molesters, rapists and other criminals will flock to Qwest.

    Take off your fucking tin foil hats, and realize that there are people out there that want Americans dead (outside of liberal treehuggers) and that we are not in Kansas anymore. Course, in the event of another attack, I am sure everyone out there will bitch that GWB wasn't doing enough.


    You forgot to add your 'join the NRA' advert there Billy-Bob...

     

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    mojo, May 16th, 2006 @ 2:00pm

    Gosh, feel the loooove!

    The fact remains that providing CDR's to the government is not unlawful, and may in fact be required by specific acts of congress. Deal with it, or go change it. Whining is pointless.

    My prediction: Qwest will play ball.

     

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    identicon
    Laughing, May 17th, 2006 @ 7:13pm

    You can tell mojo's a republican...

     

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