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Can You Track Me Now? Why The Phone Companies Are Such A Privacy Disaster

Conference:  Defcon 27

2019-08-01

Abstract

Amidst the current public outcry about privacy abuses by corporate america, one sector has received far less scrutiny than it deserves: phone companies. America’s phone companies have a hideous track record on privacy. During the past two decades, these descendants of “Ma Bell” have been caught, repeatedly, selling (or giving away) their customers’ sensitive data to the government, bounty hunters, private investigators, data brokers, and stalkers. The DEFCON community is familiar with the phone companies’ role in the Bush-era “warrantless wiretapping” program and the NSA’s surveillance of telephone metadata, revealed by Edward Snowden. Far fewer people know that the carriers were also willing participants in a massive Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spying program, which the government quietly shut down after two decades in 2013. Even less well-understood is how these corporations reap profits by selling our information to the private sector. As just one example, the carriers for years used shady middlemen to provide nearly unlimited access to Americans’ location data to anyone with a credit card. Join Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to learn why the phone companies have gotten one free pass after another, and what he’s doing to hold them accountable.

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