Yahoo! and Verizon: How Much Do the Feds Pay Us to Help Them Spy On You? You Don't Wanna Know!

Or, rather, they don't want you to know. From Wired.com:

Want to know how much phone companies and internet service providers charge to funnel your private communications or records to U.S. law enforcement and spy agencies?

That’s the question muckraker and Indiana University graduate student Christopher Soghoian asked all agencies within the Department of Justice, under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed a few months ago. But before the agencies could provide the data, Verizon and Yahoo intervened and filed an objection on grounds that, among other things, they would be ridiculed and publicly shamed were their surveillance price sheets made public.

Yahoo writes in its 12-page objection letter (.pdf), that if its pricing information were disclosed to Soghoian, he would use it “to ’shame’ Yahoo! and other companies — and to ’shock’ their customers.”

“Therefore, release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies,” the company writes.

So, knowing how little you protect user privacy and security might impair your reputation for protecting user privacy and security, Yahoo!? Well, I certainly can't argue with that.

Verizon took a different stance. It objected to the release (.pdf) of its Law Enforcement Legal Compliance Guide because it might “confuse” customers and lead them to think that records and surveillance capabilities available only to law enforcement would be available to them as well — resulting in a flood of customer calls to the company asking for trap and trace orders.

“Customers may see a listing of records, information or assistance that is available only to law enforcement,” Verizon writes in its letter, “but call in to Verizon and seek those same services. Such calls would stretch limited resources, especially those that are reserved only for law enforcement emergencies.”

Other customers, upon seeing the types of surveillance law enforcement can do, might “become unnecessarily afraid that their lines have been tapped or call Verizon to ask if their lines are tapped (a question we cannot answer).”

I say to Mr. Soghoian: Shock and shame, baby. Shock and shame!

[Hat tip: John Kluge]

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  • JB||

    Are they taking tips from Mr. Non-transparent in the Whitehouse?

    They come out looking really stupid not releasing this info.

  • ||

    For some, looking stupid is better than looking evil.

  • Karl Born||

    But it would be embarrassing!

  • Xeones||

    I'm not exactly weeping for Yahoo! and Verizon. If you lie down with dogs, you don't get to sue when someone else points out that you've got hella fleas.

  • hmm||

    Then don't do shameful shit assholes. Welcome to the market, you fuck up you pay.

  • thenino85||

    I actually feel bad for the internet companies/telcos on this one. If they co-operate with the government on this one, eventually something like this happens. If they don't co-operate with the government, the legal system is such that the government will be able to find *something* to charge their individual employees with (remember, on average we all violate 5 federal laws a day), and they can face heavy fines and even jail time. Civil disobedience isn't an option either, because the government can maintain plausible deniability of the whole thing and get away with it. And once the metaphorical gun of the government is aimed at your head, high-minded libertarian morals tend to go out the window.

    This isn't just an academic exercise, either. The Bush administration was threatening come after these guys if they didn't co-operate with the quasi-legal wiretaps, and then when the Democrats came into power, they were threatening to throw them into jail for illegal wiretaps.

    Really, all anyone that isn't hopelessly ideological on this issue can do is just shake their heads and hope it never happens to them.

  • hmm||

    So go down fighting or bend over. Not a hard decision on the micro level. Why is it so hard in the macro?

    It's business, business has consistently figured out how to get around government since humans started forming government and trading. There is always way that does not lead to sleeping with big brother.

  • Medic001||

    Not my problem they are lying to the public. Bring forth the numbers!

  • anonymous||

    So start tapping all government calls and get enough dirt on everyone that they leave you the hell alone.

  • ||

    Insidious, yet effective.

  • ||

    but the gov't would have to perform those taps. otherwise it'd be treason or some shit. so...yeah.

  • ||

    Ya know, a couple weeks ago I caught the Sprint ads showing the numbers of people using different apps and where they were while using them and I thought it scary that the phone company was so aware of my movements.

  • Lord Jubjub||

    So Verizon is afraid to tell you that your lines could be tapped for fear that you might think your lines are tapped?

  • T||

    Okay, we know they're doing it but they just don't want to let everyone know how much they charge for it? Wait, what?

    Either they're giving it away for next to nothing, and don't want to look stupid, or they're raking it huge cash and don't want to look greedy.

  • ||

    Or maybe cash is as good as, if not better than, a court order.

  • Brian Doherty||

    As the rest of the article explains, but I didn't mention in my excerpt, getting the prices charged is a roundabout means Soghoian is using to try to calculate how often the Feds are getting such info from the companies.

  • ||

    Cash isn't necessary. All the govt has to do is exchange use of the GPS satellites for some info and line "sharing." If you require the cellular phones to have gps for 911 call tracing capabilties, it makes the telecoms play along.

  • ||

    If I were a judge, I would deny the objections as follows:

    Yahoo!'s objection to the release if this information is denied, because if the pricing information were disclosed to Soghoian, he would use it to ’shame’ Yahoo! and other companies — and to ’shock’ their customers.

    Further, the objection is denied because release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security. Yahoo! should have considered whether engaging in this activity would put it at a competitive disadvantage for technology companies when it took the king's shilling.

  • Whappan?||

    And that's why you're not a judge.

  • ||

    People who believe in the war approach to terrorism shouldn't have a problem with intel agencies getting as much signal intel as they need to fight the war. Many probably don't.

  • ||

    What would one expect post CALEA/Patriot I & II, whatever? And these outfits are all protected by fedzilla, any citizen/customer action will be tossed out immediately as established by the rush to immunity granted by CONgress.

  • ||

    People who believe in the war law enforcement approach to terrorism shouldn't have a problem with intel law enforcement agencies getting as much signal intel as they need to fight the war enforce the law.

    The problem with treating terrorists like criminals is that you start treating criminals (and suspects) like terrorists.

  • ||

    ""People who believe in the war law enforcement approach to terrorism shouldn't have a problem with intel law enforcement agencies getting as much signal intel as they need to fight the war enforce the law.""

    As long as they follow the law in doing so.

    """The problem with treating terrorists like criminals is that you start treating criminals (and suspects) like terrorists."""

    Not necessarily true, and it would be bad behavior, and wrong to do so.

    So if the end game is that everyone gets treated like a terrorist, I would prefer that is done under the rule of law not the rule of war.

  • Russ 2000||

    The Wired story is a small part of the actual story.

    http://paranoia.dubfire.net/20.....lance.html

  • Franklin Harris||

    And to think I thought switching from AT&T to Verizon was switching to the lesser evil. Oh, well.

  • The Tor Network||

    Is it a coincidence that I'm running much more slowly these days?

  • ||

    RE: Verizon, another possibility is that they fear that their employees might be fooled into doing a tap-n-trace for a private citizen. Perhaps Verizon doesn't really do good verification that the people requesting TnT are indeed authorized to do so, and that knowing the service code is the only thing someone needs to start a tap.

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