AT&T, arm of the state

Jump ship, AT&T customers. From Wired News:

AT&T is seeking the return of technical documents presented in a lawsuit that allegedly detail how the telecom giant helped the government set up a massive internet wiretap operation in its San Francisco facilities.

In papers filed late Monday, AT&T argued that confidential technical documents provided by an ex-AT&T technician to the Electronic Frontier Foundation shouldn't be used as evidence in the case and should be returned.

The documents, which the EFF filed under a temporary seal last Wednesday, purportedly detail how AT&T diverts internet traffic to the National Security Agency via a secret room in San Francisco and allege that such rooms exist in other AT&T switching centers."


While AT&T's open filings did not confirm the details of Klein's statement, they did not dispute the legitimacy of his claims, and the company's filing included a sealed affidavit attesting to the sensitivity of the documents.

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You probably already know

You probably already know this, but I'll say it anyway: You don't have the choice to not use AT&T. Long distance companies all route calls over each others' lines, the use of which they rent on a minute-by-minute basis. So many of the calls which AT&T turned into involuntary party-lines with the NSA likely didn't involve AT&T customers.

This situation, in which all the phone companies are basically in bed with each other behind the facade of competition (my previous employer was fond of calling it "coopetition") means that you cannot actually avoid one company's evils by switching to another. In effect all the phone companies tap your calls, it's just that the others outsource the job to AT&T.

Big Brother is Hearing

Big Brother is Hearing You
What exactly do the NSA warrantless wiretapping program and government data mining of telecommunications entail?AT&T provided National Security Agency eavesdroppers with full...

In a state capitalism system

In a state capitalism system like ours, large corporations more often than not become arms of the state. I hate it when I meet libertarians with a knee-jerk pro-corporate attitude.

To take more generally a

To take more generally a left-libertarian perspective, this shouldn't surprise us: Given the choice, companies prefer to compete on price (ie, by routing calls across each others' lines to lower costs) than on features (ie, promising consumers some privacy by using only their own infrastructure) because it is easier for companies competing on price to divide up the market and so solve the collective action problems of building a cartel. It reduces a multi-dimensional unplannable collective action problem to a single-dimensional one of market planning and price fixing for a single commoditized good like a freshman microeconomics course -- far more solvable.

It should not surprise us that at the same time that AT&T is selling out the privacy of every phone user in the country, the phone companies are busy buying one another and recombining. In their heavily regulated market, they have banished any sign of competition to actually serve customers; they are now free to collude to compete on terms of their choosing, and to combine in order to better enforce those terms.

There was a time when Voice Over IP might have threatened this and forced them to compete to deliver user-friendly features, but with Congress showing ever-more willingness to regulate VOIP, the phone companies naturally feel secure to sell out their own customers. After all, where else will you take your business?

Fortunately I plan all my

Fortunately I plan all my terrorist acts via Gaim with the OTR plugin.