Why Won't NSA Defenders Publish Their Phone Records?

from the no-expectation-of-privacy dept

As various defenders of the NSA program keep insisting that there’s nothing wrong with the data they’re collecting because it’s “just metadata,” and “the Supreme Court has said there’s no expectation of privacy in such metadata,” it seems curious that none of those defenders seems willing to release their own such metadata. Former NSA and CIA boss, Michael Hayden (who led the warrantless wiretapping program) has written yet another less than honest op-ed piece for CNN arguing that the data collected is “like what is on an envelope.” Of course, that’s not even remotely true. Your phone (and email) metadata reveal a lot more info than what’s on the outside of a mail envelope, in part because the usage is quite different. People make a lot more phone calls and send a lot more emails than postal mail — and those calls and emails tend to be a lot more specific about their friends, lovers, family, interests and whatnot than any postal mail. Furthermore, the issue isn’t just “one” envelope, but the fact that when you “collect it all,” you can paint quite a picture of someone’s life, including all sorts of private things.

Then you get people like Rep. Mike Rogers misleadingly claiming that the Supreme Court has said there’s “no expectation of privacy in phone records.” This is the same thing that former Bush speechwriter (and defender of jailing journalists and blatant censorship) Marc Thiessen argued on Twitter.

In response, we’ve got a simple question: if there’s no expectation of privacy in metadata, and it’s just like what’s on the outside of envelope, when will Michael Hayden, Mike Rogers, Marc Thiessen and other defenders of the NSA program (James Clapper? Keith Alexander?) share their phone records for us to look through?

It’s a simple request. Clearly they have no privacy interest (the Supreme Court said so!), so I don’t see why they should refuse such a request. After all, it’s “just metadata.” And, yet, after asking both Thiessen and Rogers, neither seems inclined to share their phone records. It’s almost like it’s something that they (gasp!) might want to keep private.

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Comments on “Why Won't NSA Defenders Publish Their Phone Records?”

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pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Ok, envelopes it is

So how do I have completely anonymous phone and email meta-data. Because I CAN send an envelope without any return address on it. Drop it in a random P.O Box and you simply don’t have any way to tie it to me without opening it.

Doesn’t work for electronic communications unless you’re saying we’re allowed to encrypt everything…which apparently allows the NSA to store your data indefinitely.

Oh and caller-id spoofing is technically illegal isn’t it? According to the blank envelope concept though, it should be completely legal, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Ok, envelopes it is

There are many anonymous remailers
that let you send untraceable email.

That’s true in theory, but the anonymity is based on there being a minimum level of traffic through these remailers, so that traffic analysis won’t give a lot of information by correlating inputs and outputs.

Of course, the NSA exposure has probably increased the use of these remailers by an order of magnitude, so that’s another way in which the NSA has lost out. I wonder what’s up with Tor usage, also.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ok, envelopes it is.... paranoia version

You are anonymous only so long as their are no finger prints or DNA traces on the outside of the envelope. Further you would have to make sure that the envelope cannot be opened enough to extract the contents, or insert a scanner without leaving signs of it being tampered with.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Ok, envelopes it is

Oh and caller-id spoofing is technically illegal isn’t it?

No, it’s not, depending on how you use it.

But the thing about caller ID is that there really two different caller ID systems, the one that consumers use and the real one (ANI) that the phone company uses to identify numbers for billing purposes, for calling 911, etc. The former is not considered mission critical for anybody and can be spoofed. The latter cannot.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Like an envelope

Aside from having a lot more information than what’s on an envelope, there’s another difference: opt-in. When you send a letter, you don’t have to put any information at all on the outside aside from the destination address and stamp, so it’s possible to send anonymous mail regardless of mail covers.

Such an option is not available for phone calls.

antymat says:

It is all about accessibility.

Like – sticking your photo in your big family photo album on your shelf vs. putting it on Facebook. The accessibility is much different.
Same with the envelope analogy – since when does one need to put the sender address on it? The data accessibility again – of course, one can infer the sender; with e-mail and phone it is already there.

out_of_the_blue says:

So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

The easy counter is that publicly with millions is quite different from one entity, no matter how evil. It’s why I try to never state anything identifying here.

But as you ALSO have a valid point that entitites have no right to your personal information and it IS an invasion, it applies equally to your precious Google!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

your “easy” counter doesn’t work. The Gov are trying to encourage data sharing, so once your data has been in the hands of the police, NSA and any other 3 letters you want we’re probably talking about millions anyway.

Also it’s a good job you never post anything personally identifiable, I’m sure many people would love to use those details to inflict a small measure of revenge for the headaches through face-desks your posts cause.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

You leave plenty of identifying traces here, you’d just whine if anyone revealed they know it. Impotent ranting about a private entity that allows opt-out doesnt deflect from the real issue here – an issue you insist on avoiding because it doesn’t allow for idiotic attacks against someone you’re obsessed with. Instead of impotent whining and lying, maybe the truth is something you should address for once?

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

I’ve heard rumors that Mike has around 2,000 browser tabs open at any given time.

Maybe Mike should share his browser history with Blue and while he’s going through them all we can have a brief respite from Blue’s usual inane ramblings.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

I’m not sure I’ve ever had more than 50 open at the same time. You ever get freaked out by random audio from any of those tabs?

Yes. As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday during a similar conversation, that’s when I know it’s time for a coffee break (or, well, a break of some sort, since I’m not a big coffee drinker).

Anonymous Coward says:

But if the NSA has our data (meta or otherwise) and either uses or doesn’t use it, it’s still not public record. You are basically asking for these NSA defenders’ phone data to become public record by getting it and sharing it with the world.

Now, if we say that we are going to store the phone data on a server somewhere and not actually use it for anything *wink*, thereby not actually “collecting” the data, then we have a shot here.

Anonymous Coward says:

“…when will Michael Hayden, Mike Rogers, Marc Thiessen and other defenders of the NSA program (James Clapper? Keith Alexander?) share their phone records for us to look through?”

They don’t have to give up their phone records, because they are all exempt of the warrant-less, unconstitutional and illegal NSA spy drag-net. There’s an exemption written into the Spy Law for Congress and other federal agencies.

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