Sunday, October 14, 2007

Uninspired surveillance post

A short compendium of US illegal surveillance links: Qwest "threatened with loss of contracts" after pre-11/9 surveillance request, says exec on insider trading rap. Greenwald blasts immunity proposal. David Isenberg. Much detail. Laura Rozen.

I have nothing very original to say, except to point out that there seems to be quite a big iceberg here. There is a big difference between the idea of sticking a fibre splitter in an AT&T Internet exchange point and glurking up the physical layer traffic, and demanding piles of CDRs. Them, eh? Call Detail Records - the database row generated by each phone call that specifies the parties to the call, the time started and ended, and details of routing and charging.

It's the heart of what it means to be a telco, really; without them you'd be like (shiver) an ISP. They permit you to bill for everything, and they were almost certainly the "metadata" referred to. Quite simply, you'd never be able to process the total take pulled off the IX, even if enough of it was unencrypted; hence the CDRs.

There is a lot of technological difference between the two activities; one is real-time and the analysis is cryptographic, another is batch-processed and statistical. But what does seem clear is that there was an extensive new effort at surveillance of the US telecoms infrastructure.

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