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.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
Sen. Ron Wyden is the foremost defender of Americans’ civil liberties in the U.S. Senate, and a tireless advocate for smart tech policies. Years before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the dragnet surveillance of Americans, Wyden warned that the Patriot Act was being used in ways that would leave Americans shocked and angry, and his questioning of NSA Director James Clapper in 2013 served as a turning point in the secret surveillance of Americans’ communications.
Since then, Wyden has fought to protect Americans’ privacy and security against unwanted intrusion from the government, criminals and foreign hackers alike. He has opposed the government’s efforts to undermine strong encryption, proposed legislation to hold companies accountable for protecting their users’ data, and authored legislation with Rand Paul to protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights at the border.
Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. He lives in Portland, Oregon.