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  (Source: AP)
WSJ report cites sources close to agency saying holes in interception are filled by data grabs at a lower level

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, sources close to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) warn about a potential "blind spot" in their phone record (aka "telephony metadata") scheme that allows them to track the call records and locations of Americans on a daily basis.

I. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless Make Spying on Americans Trickier...

The source states that T-Mobile's foreign ownership (T-Mobile is owned primarily by Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (ETR:DTE)) and Verizon Wireless's foreign co-ownership (UK-based Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD) has a 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless) made seizing phone records under the Oct. 2001 USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act slightly harder.  

Both companies reportedly at times refused to participate in the program, although U.S. Verizon Wireless parent company Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) did turn in information on its land lines, which it solely serves.  And reportedly the U.S. government did not challenge theirt waivering cooperation.

Obama spying
Foreign co-owned carriers have reportedly been less than enthusiastic about Bush and Obama administration spying. [Image Source: AP]

But don't worry -- says the source -- Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile customers are still able to be monitored anyways.  Most of that traffic on Verizon or T-Mobile is at some point routed through connections owned by solely-U.S.-owned telecoms like AT&T, Inc. (T) or Sprint Nextel Corp. (S).  Thanks to this wonderful routing, the source assures, approximately 99 percent of phone traffic in the U.S. is monitored by the NSA.

II. ...But When There's a Will, Big Brother Has a Way 

A pending acquisition of Sprint might seemingly shift that balance if Japan's Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984) wins in its bid for most of the U.S. carrier.  But it will likely have little effect.

T-Mobile or smaller U.S. carriers often fill in holes in their coverage by allowing customers to roam onto solely-U.S. owned networks like AT&T.  This is one spot where the NSA can intercept the phone data.

And ultimately the NSA can always monitor at an even lower level, if necessary -- the high speed telecommunications backbone that underlies both landlines and wireless networks.  And that infrastructure is solely owned by U.S. firms -- AT&T and Verizon Business Network Services Inc. (a subsidiary of Verizon Communications).  Thus regardless of who owns the cellular carriers, the NSA can (and in many cases reportedly already does) seize communications at the lowest level, eliminating pesky civil liberties complaints by foreign nations.

fiber optics
Communications can be seized at the U.S.-owned backbone that underlies wireless networks.
[Image Source: AP]

In a letter to Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) Verizon Wireless admits [PDF] it did turn over records some of the time.  It says it responded to 260,000 customer data requests in 2011 (although it did not say how many customers were involved per request).  Of those half of the orders were without warrant (due proccess) while approximately half were via a court order or warrant.

According to sources, U.S. officials recognized the foreign leadership of T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless might lead them to buck the data gathering if they pushed the issue too hard.  So the feds kept their requests relatively small, knowing they could seize the information they missed further down the pipe.

Recent surveys showed approximately half of Americans are comfortable with the goverment tracking their locations (phone records).

Sources: WSJ, Verizon Wireless [PDF]

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RE: Only needed to read the headline...
By mrbios on 6/15/2013 6:32:39 AM , Rating: 1
Coincidentally the new XBox One has to ALWAYS be connected to the internet and has a camera that can see in the dark and microphone that MUST be on at all times.

Wrong. The camera and internet only have to be connected when you're not using it if you choose to. If you're truly worried about the privacy implications, you can do, what I like to call, "don't be lazy". Unplug the camera when your Xbox is not in use. Since you need to go up to your Xbox to reconnect the camera the next time you want to use it, you can unplug it's network cable as well, if you're using a wired connection.

I know we all like to bitch and complain that there's nothing we can do to stop this, when the reality is, we're all just too lazy.

Maybe you're too young to remember, but once upon a time, we actually had to walk up to our consoles to turn them on and off. If we really care about privacy, then removing the instant gratification of being able to remotely turn on the console, and needing to walk up to the console when you're finished using it, shouldn't be considered blasphemous.

RE: Only needed to read the headline...
By derricker on 6/15/2013 9:04:58 AM , Rating: 2
Wrong again, the thing demands a check in every 24 hours, ergo, it needs to be connected at least 24 hours, the rest of the time, it will not work without kinect.

Amazing how people ignore the involvements microsoft has had with PRISM and Domain Awareness System.

If you really care about what little privacy you have left, you will not allow such in your home.

RE: Only needed to read the headline...
By BRB29 on 6/15/2013 4:16:54 PM , Rating: 2
derricker = delusional.
You're right, derricker. There's a task force of 200 NSA agents doing nothing but watching people from their xbox one.

If that even makes sense in anyone's head.

RE: Only needed to read the headline...
By derricker on 6/15/2013 8:20:44 PM , Rating: 2
ohhhh, a geeky reply and all, I thought geeks where smarter than this anyway, seems you lack reading skillz, are you out of elementary yet??
try harder next bum, and get out of your parents basement and meet real people.

By Cheesew1z69 on 6/16/2013 7:35:36 AM , Rating: 2
I highly doubt he is a "geek" of any sort

By althaz on 6/16/2013 8:10:51 PM , Rating: 2
Actually derricker, you are incorrect (you seem like the kinda guy that should be used to it by now), the XBox One needs to have checked in within the last 24 hours for you to play a game (that means you can connect it only when you wish to play) and needs to be connected to install a game, that's it as far as the internet requirement goes.

From your comment you seem to have been expecting the console to spontaneously combust if you are not connected to the internet for 24 hours and one minute.

Likewise, there's no way that Mirosoft will spy on you with Kinect (any more than they already do), although of course, like with anything, there's always the possibility of hackers (either government or, more likely, not) doing so. But seeing as nobody managed to do it with Kinect version 1 (it was and may still be AFAIK the fastest selling technology product ever btw, lots of people have one), I wouldn't worry too much (hell I'd be more worried about people spying on your with the digital video and audio recorder in every person's pocket).

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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