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United States Privacy The Almighty Buck

What the Government Pays To Snoop On You 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the spying-for-simoleons dept.
transporter_ii writes "So what does it cost the government to snoop on us? Paid for by U.S. tax dollars, and with little scrutiny, surveillance fees charged by phone companies can vary wildly. For example, AT&T, imposes a $325 'activation fee' for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that, according to industry disclosures made last year to Congressman Edward Markey."
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What the Government Pays To Snoop On You

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  • could save us a lot of money, in addition to saving our constitution.
  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:20PM (#44256919) Homepage

    It's funny. I wrote this in 2006 and originally posted it to Slashdot. Turns out, it was a fairly prophetic piece. It got posted to Slashnot, google finance picked it up, and listed it as a blog post under AT&T's stock!

    -=-=-=-=

    AT&T Introduces Privacy+ Tier for Consumers and an NSA Turbo-Speed Tier for the government, at Market-Leading Prices

    Wednesday April 26, 6:00 am ET

    For $24.95 a month extra, the new Privacy+ Tier offers consumers the ability to feed all data to the NSA at the slowest speeds available. However, for an extra $28.95 per month, per customer, the NSA can override the Privacy+ Tier and spy on Americans at Speeds of up to 6.0 Megabits per Second

    SAN ANTONIO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 26, 2006--AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T - News) today announced a new, higher-privacy tier for its AT&T Yahoo!® High Speed Internet service that meets consumers' growing outrage for allowing the NSA full availability to its backbone. At the same time, it announced a new NSA Turbo-Speed Tier that, for a fee, allows the government to override the newly introduced Privacy+ Tier.

    Beginning Monday, May 1, new residential customers who order AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet service online through www.att.com can purchase the Privacy+ Tier -- offering data to the NSA at speeds sometimes as slow as 56k. (other monthly charges and a 12-month term commitment apply). Effective today, the new Privacy+ Tier is available for $24.99, when it is ordered with a qualifying service bundle. Existing AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet customers can upgrade to the Privacy+ service through the company's Web site and take advantage of the current pricing promotion beginning Monday.

    "Consumers are craving greater privacy, and now with the AT&T Privacy+ service, they can at least get the satisfaction that the government is going to get their private data at the slowest speeds possible; "Consumers could easily get more privacy from a company that doesn't offer the NSA a fat pipe right onto its backbone, but with the incredible amount of money that the government paid us for that pipe, we just couldn't pass it up. The new Privacy+ Tier, tips the scales back just a little bit in favor of the consumer," said Scott Helbing, chief marketing officer-AT&T Consumer.

    Also effective Monday, May 1, the NSA can sign up for the new NSA Turbo-Speed Tier, which for an extra $28.95 per month, per customer, allows the government to override the newly created Privacy+ Tier. "The NSA is craving greater speed to American's private communications, and now with the NSA Turbo-Speed Tier, they can at least get the satisfaction that they can resume domestic spying at the highest speeds possible; "The NSA will be hard-pressed to find this speed at a better price, for a full 12 months, from one of our leading competitors," said Scott Helbing, chief marketing officer-AT&T Consumer.

    AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet also announced that with the NSA paying an undisclosed, but very large amount of money for access to its backbone data, and with a higher than expected demand from consumers, that it has decided to ask popular web sites, such as Google and eBay to also pay a monthly fee to insure a speedy deliver of all consumer data to these web sites. In that regard, AT&T Yahoo introduced the new Extortion-racket Tier.

    Also, in a move that is sure to stun Wall Street, AT&T has announced that they will soon enter the "garbage collection" business.

    About the New AT&T

    AT&T Inc. is one of the world's largest telecommunications holding companies and is the largest in the United States. Operating globally under the AT&T brand, AT&T companies are recognized as the leading worldwide providers of IP-based communications services to business and as leading U.S. providers of high-speed DSL Internet, local and long distance voice, and directory publishing and advertising services. AT&T Inc. holds a 60 percent ownership interest in Cingular Wireless, which is the No. 1

    • by guttentag (313541) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:09PM (#44257229) Journal

      For $24.95 a month extra, the new Privacy+ Tier offers consumers the ability to feed all data to the NSA at the slowest speeds available. However, for an extra $28.95 per month, per customer, the NSA can override the Privacy+ Tier and spy on Americans at Speeds of up to 6.0 Megabits per Second

      You can't stop them from giving the NSA your data, but for an extra $29.99 a month you can have AT&T re-class your data as Privacy+ tier which costs the NSA an extra $599.99 in monthly surcharges to obtain. For the extra-privacy-conscious, you can name your price ($50 or greater) for PrivacyUnlimited and whatever you spend per month will cost the NSA 30 times as much to obtain.

      AT&T: We're Listening

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@NOsPAM.mac.com> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:21PM (#44256935) Journal

    The government isn't a producer of wealth. Every penny it spends is taken from us.

    -jcr

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:01PM (#44257179)

      In other words, it costs us twice. First, to get cell phone service (acceptable though whether the amount is fair is arguable) and second to send our data to the NSA without our approval (definitely NOT acceptable). And the phone companies get paid twice by us (well, once by the government using our tax money). So they aren't likely to argue too strenuously against this unless the potential for bad PR is too high. (In other words, they'll work doubly hard to keep the whole thing secret.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by norpy (1277318)

      You happen to be wrong because you are forgetting the multiplier effect. Every dollar the government spends is spent repeatedly before it ends up stopped in a savings account or cash horde somewhere. This is why income/wealth is taxed in the first place, to force it back into circulation.
      Taking money and then just spending it immediately IS wealth generating, it is the driver of inflation and all that stuff.

      Savings and interest payments have the opposite effect, money that is hoarded is a drag on the econom

      • by khallow (566160)
        Economic activity != wealth creation.
        • by rtb61 (674572)

          I can't believe anyone could be that ignorant. Piles of printed paper, digital records in computers, lumps of shiny metal, various crystals are all completely and totally valueless with economic activity defining their wealth. It is the trade in goods, resources and, skills that define value and hence wealth. Your simpleton view, that somehow you can survive in a capitalistic world sitting on your meaningless hoard without spending it and creating economic activity, is just so unfathomably ignorant.

          • by khallow (566160)

            Piles of printed paper, digital records in computers, lumps of shiny metal, various crystals are all completely and totally valueless with economic activity defining their wealth.

            No. Such things are considered wealth because they either have value to someone or they can be exchanged for things that have value to someone.

            It is the trade in goods, resources and, skills that define value and hence wealth.

            No. It is the goods, resources, and skills that have value to someone and hence, are wealth. Trade expedites the matching of the providing of such things to those who need such things. Yes, it does create wealth by enabling cooperative behavior that wouldn't exist in the absence of the trade. But the trade itself is not the wealth.

            Your simpleton view, that somehow you can survive in a capitalistic world sitting on your meaningless hoard without spending it and creating economic activity, is just so unfathomably ignorant.

            Well, you're clearly not the person

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        You happen to be wrong because you are forgetting the multiplier effect. Every dollar the government spends is spent repeatedly before it ends up stopped in a savings account or cash horde somewhere. This is why income/wealth is taxed in the first place, to force it back into circulation.

        This is so ridiculous that I can't tell whether you are trying to make fun of Keynesian economics and progressivism or whether you are that ignorant.

        Just on the off-chance that you are actually serious...

        Savings and interes

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Savings and investment are also wealth generators because it's money being loaned out to people who have some sort of track record of knowing what to do with it, otherwise there wouldn't be any interest payments.

      • by evilviper (135110)

        money that is hoarded is a drag on the economy and does not create wealth.

        That's only true if your "savings" is stuffed in your mattress. If your "savings" is in a bank "Saving Account", Money Market Account, Certificate of Deposit, or similar, it's quite beneficial to the economy, as the bank then loans the money out, giving you a cut of the interest.

        This should be something you learn when you are 5 years old... The same bank you use for your savings and checking accounts, is where you go to get a mortga

    • by Alomex (148003) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:10PM (#44257623) Homepage

      Actually many of the activities of the government are wealth producing, including science, education and infrastructure.

      The funny thing is that obviously false FoxNews talking point gets modded +5 Insightful because it appeals to people to be told that money was unjustly taken from them.

      p.s. By the way people out there reading this with mod points, you are all extremely handsome and you pay too much taxes, and you deserve a raise.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        The government able to pay for crap like this is proof that we are over taxed, and the government get's too much funding.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Alomex (148003)

          We are undertaxed. How can we tell? because we are running a deficit. As simple as that.

          Say if you go to a restaurant and start paying by installments. How do you go about finding out if you have over or underpaid? well you check to see if you still have a deficit on your tab, if there is still one you haven't paid enough. It is no different with the government,

          What you are trying to say is that the government is overspending and I might or might not agree with you (in fact, I agree with you: it overspends

          • by stdarg (456557)

            Say if you go to a restaurant and start paying by installments. How do you go about finding out if you have over or underpaid? well you check to see if you still have a deficit on your tab, if there is still one you haven't paid enough.

            The issue isn't about overpaying, it's about over-ordering. You have $10. The restaurant charges $8 for a burger, and $12 for steak. You order the steak. The deficit is most directly caused by your ordering decision, not the fact that you didn't bring enough cash, because the ordering decision happened after you had full knowledge of your cash on hand and the price on the menu.

            • by Alomex (148003)

              I agree, that's exactly my point: We are not overtaxed.

              Depending on your political preferences we are either overspending or undertaxed (or both). But we most definitely are not overtaxed. This is follows from basic accounting definitions. As simple as that.

              • by ArsonSmith (13997)

                Accounting is a very poor indicator of tax increase/decrease. If you say we had a tax rate of 20% and took in $2b that doesn't mean that a 30% tax rate will bring in $3b or that a 10% tax rate will only bring in $1b.

                Otherwise the government could just say, "Look there are 100 Million movie goers every year, lets just add a $1000 tax to movie tickets and we'd be out of debt in no time." Obviously at this high tax rate they will get almost no income from movie ticket sales, also they will get no income from

                • by Alomex (148003)

                  High taxes from the government can only be used to punish unwanted behavior not to increase revenue.

                  Not so. Higher taxes during the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations increased revenue. Look it up. In fact data suggests that revenue will continue increasing, albeit progressively more slowly, until somewhere around 60-70% of GDP. Of course at that level we are getting rather diminishing returns, so it is not worth chasing the last 10-15%. However from a purely revenue perspective collections would increase rather nicely until around a net tax rate of 50%.

                  As I said, there might be many other reasons why w

              • by stdarg (456557)

                I agree, that's exactly my point: We are not overtaxed.

                That's true, but it's not the issue. Nobody is concerned with whether the amount of tax collected is equal to the amount of tax that is supposed to be collected.

                Just like your restaurant example, you're focusing on something that nobody is concerned about (overpaying your bill, versus over-ordering your food). I guess this is a technically a strawman argument even though you are literally correct. It's just that when people say they're overtaxed, they are not talking about what you're talking about.

                • by Alomex (148003)

                  It's just that when people say they're overtaxed, they are not talking about what you're talking about.

                  So it's they which are equivocating and selling a false bill of goods. This actually suggests that the arguments for tax cuts are not very good, and hence they have to rely on misstatements such as "we are overtaxed" to support them.

                  • by stdarg (456557)

                    So it's they which are equivocating

                    "Overtaxed" means you feel that you are paying too much for what you get from the government. Going back to your restaurant analogy, it's like saying the food is overpriced. Since the tax an individual pays is his price for government it's a pretty good analogy.

                    In some hypothetical literal sense of "overpriced", nothing is "overpriced" because the price is what it is. That type of reasoning seems a bit silly. We know what "overpriced" and "overtaxed" mean and I don't think it's an equivocation to use these

                    • by Alomex (148003)

                      "Overtaxed" means you feel that you are paying too much for what you get from the government.

                      Nope. Republicans have re-written the definition to mean that, but it is incorrect.

                      Going back to your restaurant analogy, it's like saying the food is overpriced.

                      Correct, there is a term for that which is "overpriced", yet republicans on purpose are using the term "overcharged" in an attempt to muddle the issue.

                      A place might charge you $2K for a burger which is waaay overpriced, but it you knowingly go in and order the two-grand burger you cannot complain about being overcharged.

                      Similarly with the government, every year we elect representatives who spend like drunken sailors, particul

                    • by stdarg (456557)

                      Nope. Republicans have re-written the definition to mean that, but it is incorrect.

                      If the definition has been rewritten, then now it is correct and you're incorrect. Do a search for "the rich are undertaxed" and you'll find that Democrats are in full agreement with Republicans about what under/over taxed means, and it has nothing to do with whether they were taxed what they were supposed to be taxed. It means the taxes are too low. Overtaxed means the taxes are too high.

                      Correct, there is a term for that which is "overpriced", yet republicans on purpose are using the term "overcharged" in an attempt to muddle the issue.

                      Overcharge:
                      Verb
                      Charge (someone) too high a price for goods or a service.
                      Noun
                      An excessive charge for goods or a service.

                      S

          • by ArsonSmith (13997)

            Yet it has been proven time and again that lowering high taxes increases revenue for the government due to increased economic activity. getting $100 from 10 transactions is not as good as getting $10 form 1000 because people aren't being charge $100 per taxable transaction they will do significantly more of them. This is not theory it is proven with actual tax rate changes, both raising and lowering throughout history and in every country that kept records.

            • by Alomex (148003)

              Yet it has been proven time and again that lowering high taxes increases revenue for the government due to increased economic activity

              Actually not at all. FoxNews and the GOP repeat this all the time hoping that naive people will fall for it, but if you look at actual evidence there is no support for this claim.

              All present evidence by economists from all sides of the political spectrum suggest that we are on the other side of the Laffer curve, the one where increased taxes means increased revenues. See for

    • by Valdrax (32670)

      The government isn't a producer of wealth. Every penny it spends is taken from us.

      Whereas the private sector just pulls money out of thin air, huh?

      What exactly does it mean to produce wealth in your mind? Please explain in a such a manner that accounts for both inputs and outputs and yet explains how the government's use of money doesn't meet this definition.

  • US govt views privacy-enhancing encryption as an illegal weapon
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Once again, its all about the money. As bad as it is for the companies to sell this information, I find it much worse that that the government is secretly spending our money on spying on us. A warrant will get them access for free if its justified, right?

    Sequester the NSA's funding please. Congress, really, how unpopular would it be to take that money away and spend it on some other stupid program or maybe even a good one?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    i mean, if you want to start talking about leaks of highly sensitive information, you cant get much more sensitive.
    whoever put this info out there is basically, legally, the same as edward snowden.

    and also a bunch of people on obama's staff who leaked classified info about the bin ladin raid.

    • by Qzukk (229616)

      What could this possibly have to do with the NSA budget? This is just what different companies charge the government for wiretaps, that's all.

  • by pecosdave (536896) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:29PM (#44256997) Homepage Journal

    Because they're sure not using it to make their network worth a crap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They're expanding their direct connections to the NSA. They found out it's a better business model to set up wiretaps than it is to provide good internet connections.

      • by pecosdave (536896)

        By having a shitty network it could be argued Sprint is looking out for their customers privacy.

  • Empower me (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:37PM (#44257041)

    So the NSA is going to do it anyways... at least let me sell my data. Give me a tax break or something...

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:42PM (#44257083) Homepage Journal

    If the day ever comes, the people in charge of these telecoms need to be the first ones put up against the wall.

    Well, maybe the second ones...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I' d rather be on the network that charges the government the most to listen to my phone calls...

  • Wait (Score:5, Funny)

    by superwiz (655733) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:27PM (#44257365) Journal
    Can I get in on that action? That's waaaay more money than a phone subscription would cost. I'll record all of my own conversations on all communication devices (and I'll increase the number of those that I have by a factor of 10-100) if they pay me half of that amount for each device-subscription combo. Heck, I'd do for a quarter of that amount. I'd still be ahead.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This must be Skypes business model then. Well do you think Microsoft develops all these backdoors and supplies them for free? No way! The company was never worth $7 billion on it's disclosed revenue, it must have had some other value to Microsoft.

    Next big elephant in the room, IS WINDOW BACKDOORED. I mean beyond the NSA certificate, has Microsoft sent down updates that are really NSA spy packages?

    How much of Silicon valleys business is a subsidy from the US Gov in the form of a pay-to-spy?

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:23PM (#44257709)

    For example, AT&T, imposes a $325 'activation fee' for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it.

    These are only promotional introductory rates, good for the first 24 months. After that, the charges revert to "standard" rates, the details of which are not available anywhere.

    Even the NSA has not been able to find any information on what they will have pay at the end of the promotional period.

  • Hell, they could just pay me and I'll conference in a number they provide on every call.

  • by NovaHorizon (1300173) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:48PM (#44257881)

    How about they just pay me $500/month and I'll let them listen to one of my phone lines 0.o That's a lot of money I could use right now. Hell, they can make it $3000/month and I'll let them have one of my email addresses, my skype, and one of my phone lines.. even the text messages for that line... (I'll just then be careful what I say on those specific sources xD )

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @11:00PM (#44257959)
    So what you're saying is the telcos have a built in motivation to search for and find (or create) the perception of as much criminal wrongdoing on the part of their hapless customers as they possibly can. Don't bother telling me me they wouldn't do this- I read The Guardian, not the Washington Post.
  • If it didn't come out of your own pocket.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      If it didn't come out of your own pocket.

      well, these are just the legit on warrant taps. not the dump taps.

  • it is YOU, the tax payers. So, in effect, you are all paying for being surveyed. Yes, me, too.

    Why am i suddenly feeling all warm and cosy – not?

    • by buck-yar (164658)

      Who cares, most people in this country are statist/authoritarians. I'm glad the govt is sucking them dry, spending $600k on facebook likes and **** like that. They voted these people in, they should reap the misery they produced.

  • If want to save your tax dollars for something more useful, just post all your information on Facebook.
  • Maybe for individual wiretaps and criminal investigations. But the blanket surveillance? That's just co-location expenses. Remember, compliance with federal law is one of the requirements of licensing, and if federal law says "we get to look over your shoulder at your switching records" then that's just part of the cost of doing business.

    Look at all the tax and right-of-way concessions already being made. It's one of the annoying little things about so-called "deregulation" - some of the regulations
  • Paying for a wiretap means a couple things. 1) someone probably has to authorize the money or at least a larger pool of money that its taken from. The cost is trivial for something that matters but will add up with repeated wasteful use. 2) It provides a paper trail outside of the government which can be used to trace abuses. Hey, why does this one analyst keep listening in on Warren Buffets phone calls? Oh right, echo his taps to me please... And don't mention this to anyone, it's classified... Which bring
  • As long as carriers are making good money off snooping, they're not going to strongly oppose it. Make it so they can only charge a nominal fee (say, $20) and watch their opposition increase.

  • ..then there's no hope for you, none at all. You're paying for the "service", and then you're (potentially) also paying (via your taxes) to get snooped on by the goddamn NSA/CIA/FBI/whoever. How much more of this shit is everyone going to stand for?

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