Who Have You Been Talking To?

Posted 14 Aug 2009

phone call register

Just as the outside of all mail is photographed, the phone numbers that any one phone calls or receives and the websites visited by a computer are all subject to review by government officials. There are ways to avoid this intrusion.

How Your Calls/Website Visits Are Monitored

Without dazzling you with a history of this subject under constitutional law, there is no expectation of privacy in the phone numbers you dial, or web sites, that you visit.  The police may obtain a court order based on a very low standard falling far below probable cause, to subpoena those records from your phone company or internet service provider. 

The police do not even need to tell the judge what they think they will find or why they have chosen to investigate such material.  Thus, upon application and satisfaction of a very low burden of proof, the judge "shall" issue the subpoena. What is worse is that even if a violation of your constitutional rights is found in getting the phone or internet records, the information gathered in violation of your rights may still be used against you. 

If the protection of some privacy laws is inapplicable to the communication in question, the barriers to the government do not even include having to get a subpoena and they can compel the phone and internet providers to turn over that information immediately.

Although most of what is discoverable is the number at the other end of the line, or the website viewed, the information gleaned could lead to a more thorough surveillance of your private affairs if the information paints a profile of you which is considered suspicious.

One of the major flaws with this is that there are few profiles which do not fit somebody's definition of a suspicious profile. If you are tallish, shortish, with thinning to thick hair and are wide but thin, you fit the profile of a terrorist. The closer scrutiny of your personal affairs after fitting the profile could lead to unnecessary and intrusive violations of your personal privacy.

How To Avoid Suspicion

The easiest way to avoid suspicion is to avoid having those calls or web site visits that would arouse the most suspicion from registering under your account. For the phone company, this could be as simple as making a call from a public phone, which are increasingly scarce.

Although public phones are often constantly monitored, unless you or the person you call are already under close surveillance, there is little chance that the call will be linked to you. 

You may also consider using another person's phone, as long as they know who you are calling and don't mind. I do not suggest calling a psychic hotline at $1.99 a minute on your friend's dime or you may run out of friends willing to let you make a call. 

You may also consider using a phone at work if you are able to make personal calls or simply using the phone at the grocery store or other business in order to place the calls that you are concerned about. The easiest way to avoid a suspicious search or web page visit to show up on the records of your service provider is to use a proxy server to take advantage of anonymous web surfing.


There may always be someone watching your phone and internet activity, especially when you must use the service of a telecommunications company or internet service provider. Avoid openly engaging in activities that you think are the most suspicious. 

Although these measures are not a guarantee against unnecessary intrusion, they are the simplest steps to begin protecting your privacy in this area.  A complete strategy for keeping your communications private can be created using this and other strategies found in the book How To Vanish.