Friday, March 14, 2014

Metadata reveals your most personal secrets

We've already seen several terrifying examples of what the NSA and GCSB can learn from your metadata, but here's another one. Stanford University has been conducting a study of metadata, using an app installed by volunteers on their phones which gives them exactly what we know the NSA can access from your phone company. And just by looking at phone calls, they've uncovered the deepest secrets of people's lives:

So what was revealed, precisely? Mayer and his team showed that participants called public numbers of “Alcoholics Anonymous, gun stores, NARAL Pro-Choice, labor unions, divorce lawyers, sexually transmitted disease clinics, a Canadian import pharmacy, strip clubs, and much more.”

The researchers were even surprised that they had real-world results to support a classic nightmare scenario feared by many civil libertarians and privacy activists.

Participant A communicated with multiple local neurology groups, a specialty pharmacy, a rare condition management service, and a hotline for a pharmaceutical used solely to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis.

Participant B spoke at length with cardiologists at a major medical center, talked briefly with a medical laboratory, received calls from a pharmacy, and placed short calls to a home reporting hotline for a medical device used to monitor cardiac arrhythmia.

Participant C made a number of calls to a firearm store that specializes in the AR semiautomatic rifle platform. They also spoke at length with customer service for a firearm manufacturer that produces an AR line.

In a span of three weeks, Participant D contacted a home improvement store, locksmiths, a hydroponics dealer, and a head shop.

Participant E had a long, early morning call with her sister. Two days later, she placed a series of calls to the local Planned Parenthood location. She placed brief additional calls two weeks later, and made a final call a month after.
If they care to look, the spies know not just your job and personal relationships, but what diseases you have, whether you're engage din criminal activity, and whether you've had an abortion. This is horrificly intrusive. And all of it is done without any warrant, or any sort of oversight at all.

People have a right to privacy, especially from the government. Indiscriminate metadata surveillance needs to end.