Phone Records: Then VS Now and Law

Telephone is a telecommunications device used to communicate between two or more people in any distance. Primarily telephones were used only for communication purposes but today telephones are as powerful and useful as computers are. With the evolution of phones, many things have changed which includes phone records. In past, phone records involved only phone numbers but today there is so many data and information on phones. These records include phone numbers, bank information, personal pictures and videos, location and text messages. These records are often used by law enforcers to investigate crimes by gathering information from phone records. Since 1970 many things has changed. This paper examines the technological differences between phone records in the 1970 and smartphones, privacy and how courts affect the technology.

In past law enforcers could pull phone information without probable cause which means telecommunications industry used to be more cooperative with law enforcement. But now there have been many changes. Knutson, Gryta, Barrett (2014) write on the article that AT&T Inc. said federal investigators might need a warrant to gather data about cellphone user’s location, challenging the more permissive legal framework the government has used for year. This means law enforcers will need probable cause to get warrant from a judge before pulling phone records from carriers like AT&T. Although phone records helps to locate suspects and gather evidences, pulling phone record without cause hinders right to privacy. Hence providing enough evidence or cause in court to pull phone record is a good way of protecting rights.

Privacy is very important from global perspective. This is why companies like Facebook, Google and other companies are making their services and devices more secure to satisfy their consumers who demand more privacy. Barrett, Yardon, Wakabayashi (2014) article about tech companies’ encrypting phones writes about Edward Snowden’s revelations where he released documents showing the NSA scanned Internet traffic extensively, suggesting tech companies were complicit in the snooping. Other documents revealed that the NSA had intercepted traffic between Google’s overseas data centers, infuriating Google executives. This has led to mistrust these tech companies due to which they lost millions of consumers worldwide. This could be a one reason buy companies like AT&T, Apple, Facebook and others are fighting against law enforcers for privacy by making their services and devices more secure. Many multinational telecommunication companies rely heavily on revenues from international markets. With the revelations of these companies being part of helping government officials by providing phone records does not help these companies to increase the global market. The losses are big and trust is hard to gain because privacy is very important to customers around the world. In my view, actions taken by companies like AT&T and Apple is good way to gain the trust and increase market.

Companies like Facebook, Google and even AT&T are encrypting data on devices like phones and other devices. And it should not be decision of a single company or group of multinational corporation to encrypt the data to see whether it is the right thing to do or not. Hence there should be a specific law passed by Congress in court to make it ethical. Privacy is matter of people and court should decide on what people need the most. Blumenstein and Anders (2016) writes on their article in which AT&T CEO says Congress should determine encryption policy that Law-enforcement officials around the globe have argued that such encryption is an impediment to criminal investigations. I believe this is the right thing to do to secure user privacy. This issue is not only better for people but also better for business around the globe.

For many years in early 1990s organizations were in war with government officials to preserve privacy by using encrypting techniques. These type of wars were matter to be discussed in court where fair judgment is done. Supreme Court decided in favor of organizations trying to preserve privacy of people. If the court had failed in doing so, we would be under surveillance of government officials all the time hindering our right of privacy. In such case telecommunication industry would have failed to grow like today, making people not to use technology. Decisions like those has been very important for any technology around the globe and this is how courts affect technology.  Alexander (2013) writes on his article The Second Great Crypto War that Cryptography became a huge force in business and private life, making ecommerce possible and enabling relatively secure interpersonal communication.

Telephones has highly evolved from what they used to be like back in 1970s. They could have more data and information about the user than in computer itself. With government officials and law enforcers using phone records to find information about people to help them investigate, it raised the question of right of privacy. Even when telecommunication companies helped law enforcers by providing phone records, it turned out to be a bad business for them when revealed. Now companies are trying to make their devices encrypted to preserve user privacy. For many years, individuals and companies have fought war to preserve right and these matter have been taken to court and settled which has in my opinion turned out in people’s favor helping both people and these companies.

References

Knutson, R., Gryta, T., & Barrett, D. (2014, November 18). AT&T Enters Legal Fray Over Location Data. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/at-t-enters-legal-fray-over-location-data-1416357690

Blumenstein, R., & Anders, J. (2016, January 20). AT&T CEO Says Congress Should Determine Encryption Policy, Not Companies. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/at-t-ceo-says-congress-should-determine-encryption-policy-not-companies-1453294093

Barrett, D., Yadron, D., & Wakabayashi, D. (2014, November 18). Apple and Others Encrypt Phones, Fueling Government Standoff. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-and-others-encrypt-phones-fueling-government-standoff-1416367801

Alexander, B. (2013, March 12). The Second Great Crypto War. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://reason.com/archives/2013/03/12/the-second-great-crypto-war

 

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