Our Phone Conversations are not Private: “Super Secret Engine” in Play

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Law enforcement in the United States has been recording conversations domestically and internationally through a program called Hemisphere since 1987. This program is being referred to as a “Super Search Engine,” which is operated by AT&T on behalf of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. According to Dave Maass and Aaron Mackey’s report for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), AT&T adds trillions of recorded conversations to this program everyday. Law enforcement agencies use this secret program to gain access to private information about any individual through a phone call. The government and law enforcement agencies have made it their mission to keep this program hidden from the public eye.

The government refused to disclose any information about the secret program, which resulted in the EFF filing a lawsuit against federal law enforcement agencies to obtain information on this project. Two years before this lawsuit, EFF made a request to access this information through the freedom of information act. The government withheld the private documents because they claimed it could interfere with an active investigation. According to the article, information about the project was released in 2013, which explained how the program has the ability to record a conversation, track the location of the call, and who participated in the call and how long the call was. This program also helps law enforcement agencies learn a person’s movements and whom they socialize with. The United States government, law enforcement agencies and the telephone company AT&T benefit from the Hemisphere program. AT&T gets business and the government gets to spy on the citizens without their permission. This program violates the Fourth and First Amendments, which is against the law because everyone has the right to privacy and police should not have access to this information without a warrant. This program gives law enforcement agencies the ability to peer into the lives of every Americans who owns a cellphone and to target individuals such as activists or someone who defies authority.

As of December 7, 2016 the corporate media has not covered this story.

Source: Dave Maass and Aaron Mackey, “Law Enforcement’s Secret ‘Super Search Engine’ Amasses Trillions of Phone Records for Decades,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, November 29, 2016, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/11/law-enforcements-secret-super-search-engine-amasses-trillions-phone-records.

Student Researcher: Samantha Bosnich (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)