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AT&T sued over national US wiretapping program

Interesting to read over on The Register (opens in new tab)that AT&T, the giant US telco, is being sued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (opens in new tab)over what the EFF alleges is a "massive and illegal" telephone tapping program.

The EFF claims that AT&T has colluded with the National Security Agency (opens in new tab)(NSA) in allowing widespread tapping access to its telephone network, without requiring court authorisation.

The case is interesting, as the whole tapping ballgame has changed since 9/11 in the US.

Here in the UK, good old BT (opens in new tab) has almost completely automated its own telephone tapping system. This means that, unless the subscriber is located on a country satellite exchange, BT staffers can set up a wiretap remotely.

I'm not sure of the arrangements for cable telcos, but I'd imagine the system is similar.

The big question in the UK, of course, is whether BT allows access to its `supervisory network for off-premises extensions' (as it used to be known) to police and government security agency staff.

With the high levels of automation on BT's network these days, and the constant quest for profitability, I'd be surprised if it didn't allow third-party access.

But what about court orders?

Difficult to say, as the current climate of terrorist paranoia doesn't exactly encourage those in charge to stick precisely to the paperwork requirements.

Back in the US, meanwhile, and the EFF alleges that AT&T, in addition to allowing unlawful wiretaps, has given the the US government "unfettered access" to its over 300 terabyte database of caller information.

Wow. Big question - does the Interception of Communications Act (opens in new tab)apply to BT's caller data in the UK?

The telco could quite feasibly claim that the data is marketing information, especially if it only identified the calling and called party numbers, together with their time and date.

A potential can of worms or what?...