In October 2003, I led a rapid deployment team for a major wireless carrier responsible for overhauling its security system. For the past year and a half, I have anonymously briefed Congress and nongovernment organizations about my observations, going public last month with crucial public interest information: An unknown third party using a mysterious "Quantico Circuit" has provided the federal government with unfettered access to everything on the carrier's network.Recognizing this critical security breach and taking preliminary correction steps, my attempts at implementing controls and logging were blocked and rebutted with threats and admonishments by carrier executives.
Despite ready capabilities, the company had opted not to protect itself and its customers. Unfettered access to the carrier's systems offers powerful information. All calls and data communications including e-mail, Web, text messages, pictures and videos are attainable in real-time. Any person could be physically located, and billing records including names, financial information, contacts and behavioral data, are accessible.
Tracking abilities have expanded to subscriber desktops with new "smartphones" -- unnecessarily requiring personal log on credentials to business and personal computers to deliver e-mail, contact and calendaring information. This entrusts private information with the carrier that goes far beyond mobile phone usage.On March 4, I disclosed my experience in an affidavit to Congress. On March 6, House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell wrote a "Dear Colleague" letter to all 435 House members requesting an investigation prior to any carrier immunity discussions.
On March 14, the House voted to deny immunity and to investigate the telecoms. Who was at the other end of the Quantico Circuit? What information did they obtain? Does this comply with longstanding federal law? Are telecoms and other corporations paid to betray our privacy? We need answers to those questions and more. What I witnessed is just one strand in a technological web that all but eliminates any expectation of privacy. Aside from the capabilities described above, credit, ATM and even grocery discount cards can and are being used to identify, locate, track and behaviorally categorize people. Ubiquitous Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are permanently hidden in almost everything including clothes, packaged goods, credit cards and toll payment devices.
As small as a grain of sand, they offer not just tracking but also detailed information on anyone or any item. Let's not forget the ever-expanding network of surveillance cameras that monitor highways, street corners, stores and buildings that are augmented by an even larger network of ATM cameras. Satellites can be turned on citizens -- consider Google maps. Our government tracks all Internet use with powerful tools that analyze and prepare behavior-based reports. Any single piece of information can be effortlessly cross-referenced to build an electronic dragnet constantly monitoring our actions and even predicting our behavior. Information overload and processing power, once the sole barrier to these tactics, are no longer a factor.
Given precipitous developments in technology, inaction today would surely have an exponentially greater impact on the rights and lives of future American generations -- where an Orwellian nightmare would become reality. My observations at the telecom may be the tip of an iceberg that is fatal for a free society. Before there are any more blank checks to disregard the law, we need to investigate and learn the full scope of indiscriminate corporate and administration spying.