AT&T billing site makes jokes about company's participation in warrantless wiretapping?

Reid sez, "I, unfortunately, have an AT&T cell phone. I check my bill every few weeks. Today, I went to log in, and was greeted by a terrific new advertisement for their online billing system. It's as if their marketing department thinks that warrantless wiretapping is funny or something. " Link, Link to screenshot (Thanks, Reid!)


  1. Creeeeeeeepy…

    I also quite like their catchy “Simplify. Organize. Liberate” borderline military slogan.

  2. Is it possible this is just referring to Ms. Suspicious having something to hide in her phone bill?

    Maybe that’s why she doesn’t want it coming in the mail, so her boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t get to see all the 900 number calls she’s been making…

  3. God, Steve. Why did you sell your faithful down the river to these cretins? :(

  4. I agree with Hobocamp. Of course, it could be a double entendre, meant to shoot up the blood pressure of those who keep up with the wiretapping situation. If that’s the case, then it’s actually quite witty.

    I also use AT&T mobile services. The tapping doesn’t matter in my situation, and the service is unbeatable. I’m posting this comment using my phone in the middle of the Ozarks, if that gives you any idea what I mean. If some dude wants to hear my boring conversations, hell, go ahead. Maybe they’ll hear some new jokes to share with their friends.

    Which will also be monitored. And then the jokes spread more. And are monitored more…

    Next thing you know, there’s no new material to share.

  5. What the hell BBers? This is a good thing. Read it. It’s playing on the sense that maybe there IS something to hide, AND THEY’RE OK WITH THAT.

    OK, they’ll sell you out to the feds anyhoo (Thanks, Barak!) But, the message itself is fine.

  6. Double points for the mangled grammar in the first sentence. “Well, she has a little to hide, but her love of Online Billing isn’t one of them.” Isn’t one of what?

  7. #1: Yes, Simplify, Organize, Liberate. Makes a nice acronym, too. SOL.

    I wonder if that’s used for anything? Say something to do with Luck.

  8. “Ms. Suspicious has nothing to hide.”
    Except the Apple logo on her laptop. Honestly.

  9. Okay so who wants to start an actual “Online Liberation Movement” to infringe on their apparently trademarked imaginary organization?

  10. As an AT&T employee, I can say four things:

    1) I have no personal accounts with AT&T, and don’t plan to have any.

    2) Corporate IT monitors my at-work usage with FREAKISH regularity. So much so that the spy/employee ratio must be about 1/10.

    3) About 1/4 of my email at work is spam from AT&T just like the above.

    4) Somebody probably made that as a joke, and their boss probably used it without getting the joke. At this point, that person has probably been fired. Or quit.

  11. I think someone is seeing Bolsheviks under the bed and needs to take off the colored glasses.

  12. holtt,

    Your governess must have told you some bizarre bedtime stories. Or did you have a point buried deep within the parable?

  13. What’s the joke exactly? Is it a good thing to have to worry whether or not you have something to hide? Um… no it isn’t. I fear that too many of us have become complacent about being spied on, either by big companies or big government.

    I know that even by posting this comment something is added to my “permanent record”. It sucks. Makes me feel (even more than ever) like moving into some remote cave and subsisting on roots and insects. (At least insects that don’t have rfid tags attached).

  14. I really dig the Post It note on her laptop that has KEEP OUT! scrawled on it. You can tell by the bug eyes she’s into midget porn.

  15. Antinous, you’re reviving memories of milk and cookies, and… oooh… I was as a man child run wild when the estate was ours.

  16. Once we caught the gardener watching us “plow the furrow” and “plant the seed” It was hugely exciting.

    Think about it. Warrentless wiretaps are like the ultimate in peeping tom voyeurism. Maybe people are just envious and wish THEY could listen in on phone calls. Actually (in a stream of consciousness sort of way)…

    Imagine you could set up a website that let you just listen to anonymous phone calls. Or imagine even that you had to pay a dollar an hour to do it.

    It would make you millions.

  17. My point by the way was that when you’re looking for something and are convinced it’s rampant, you’re probably going to see it everywhere you look. Like Bolsheviks under your bed.

    I’m saying this interpretation of this ad is like an ink blot test – and how someone interprets it is an indication of their mindset and predisposition to belief (well founded or not).

  18. It will make trials simpler. Of course they have proof. Everything is recorded. Why even check? Americans should pay a little attention to how things have worked in Japan this past century or so.

  19. you’ve never seen a Hello Kitty pink interrogation truncheon? The colour hides the flecks of brain.

  20. People who think that they have no worries because they’ll have nothing to hide have big surprise in store for them.

  21. holtt “Imagine you could set up a website that let you just listen to anonymous phone calls. Or imagine even that you had to pay a dollar an hour to do it.”
    Typical phone banter:

    What? You want me to open the store today? But it’s my day off!


    Oh. Hi mom. No, I’m not married yet. Not much. Just got home from work. Yes, I am having a beer. No, I’m not getting drunk. You’re putting dad on? Yes, dad…the car is running fine.*

    If listening to that turns you on, I recommend a new hobby. Also, if listening to that helps fight terrorism, then terrorism is the least of our worries.

    * Note: based on every conversation I’ve ever had on the phone with my parents.

  22. @5 RJ, 28 Noen has some wise words there. And even if your conversations truly are so mundane as to be beyond the possibility of incrimination… This is just one of those times to think of the big picture, think about others. Just because it doesn’t affect you… it’s a big deal to a lot of people – an invasion of privacy is nothing to take lightly. Not trying to hate here… but just because it “doesn’t matter in your situation” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be passionately against it, if you care about your fellow ‘mericans.

  23. Those who say we shouldn’t have anything to hide unless we’re up to no good are hiding the fact that THEY are up to no good.

  24. I don’t see why this is all such a suprise, as an ex BT (main UK telco) employee, it was my job to build the exchange databases from the ground up.
    Around 1990 by order of the government the whole decode (telephone numbers) structure was rewritten and we were’nt allowed to mention the name of the exercise to anyone.
    It was rewritten to allow wiretepping from the onset of every call in the country.
    Basically as soon as you start dialling the exchange checks to see of the government wants to spy on you, if so the call is routed through the wiretapping equipment, if not in proceeds as normal.
    The code for this was given the highest priority, the same as 999/112 ccts and we would get our asses kicked if we messed it up.
    It was a major upheaval of the code structure and is still their to this day.
    Of course the new 21CN malarkey will be much more invasive…if they ever get it to work.

  25. Even if you have nothing to hide now, just remember that the folks listening in are the ones who decide what is considered “bad”.

  26. It isn’t just that folks who think they have nothing to hide probably do have things they’d rather keep private. It’s that the secrecy allows other things to go on without the public being able to know. If you have the power to snoop into the information stored on someone’s PC you also have the power to place information there unobserved. So how do you neutralize a political opponent? Put kiddie porn on his PC.

    The power to listen in on your communication is also the power to edit.

  27. To everyone who claims to be an employee of whatever: Prove it. Leak something sensitive and verifiable. If you value your job too much to do that, then you shouldn’t be stroking your ego by hinting at things.

    And nice use of a question mark i nthe headline. That’s what FOX news does when they want to pass something manufactured off as a real story: They make it a question so they don’t have to stand behind it.

    I watched the corny flash movies… The “Online Liberation Movement” is about “liberating” yourself from paper bills. It’s marketing crap, but they are poking fun at the various archetypes you find on the internet. (She’s the kook who’s paranoid about everything. I guess that would kind of hit home around here.)

  28. noen – wiretapping is a far cry from snooping and/or planting things on someone’s computer.

  29. Oh! I get it (i think). The add is a play on objectivist feminism, bond breaking promiscuity, and the technological/market savvy to deceive more efficiently.The only other thing she’s hiding besides infidelity, and the midget porn is a dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged.

  30. @ #13 that’s one chilling endorsement of AT&T, if only the rest of the nation would read it!

  31. wiretapping is a far cry from snooping and/or planting things on someone’s computer.

    Which is why I added that they can edit your communication. “What? You claim you haven’t been talking to terrorists/pedophiles? We have your e-mails to them and your bank transfers to their accounts that show otherwise.” It doesn’t have to go to court, you may in fact be able to prove the gov info is wrong. Doesn’t matter, your career is over, your personal life in ruins, your reputation is shot and you went bankrupt defending yourself.

    This is why online privacy is so important. Not because “Oh, I guess I can’t look at porn any more.” Take a look at this story:

    Seizing Laptops and Cameras Without Cause

    Returning from a vacation to Germany in February, freelance journalist Bill Hogan was selected for additional screening by customs officials at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. Agents searched his luggage, he said, “then they told me that they were impounding my laptop.”

    Business is responding:

    the controversial practice has prompted some businesses to change their policies about traveling with corporate information. Many now require employees to access data remotely to avoid confiscations.

    The point that I wish to make here is that this will also be the home users best response. Either get a secure remote account, they already exist, or else take your important PC off line and restrict internet surfing to a stripped down, highly secured PC. This will once again introduce a digital divide between those who know how, or can afford to hire someone who knows, to set up a secure PC for the internet and those who can’t.

    But increased state and corporate power over the internet also threatens the internet’s generativity:

    the Internet’s generativity lies not only in the end-to-end openness of the network but also in the network’s endpoints, the personal computers and other hardware that we use to communicate over the Internet. Virtually all the debate over the Internet’s generativity has centered on the openness of the network (often termed “network neutrality”) and content available on the network (principally, the debate over copyright industries’ use of digital encryption and digital rights management). But as Zittrain cogently argues, the proliferation of personal computers, mobile phones, and other network communication devices that are themselves non-generative — that sharply constrain users’ ability to adapt and use them outside the device’s predetermined functionality or the supplier’s ongoing control– may greatly diminish the generativity of the system as a whole.

    Jonathan Zittrain, The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It

    If the internet becomes so hostile to privacy that in order to use it you have to use an internet appliance, a secure account, a stripped down PC, your iPhone or whatever, then you have effectively killed off the very thing that has made the internet so attractive.

    There is nothing inherent in digital communication that necessarily results in the free open model we have had so far. It could just as easily be the most repressive form of control we’ve ever seen. Far outstripping any of repressive dictatorships we’ve experienced so far. We have a choice.

  32. i was once contacted by ATT&T and asked if i wanted to change my plan or service or something of the sort involving the word ‘bundle’ when i decided to take the opportunity to make my feelings known about the NSA spying, and inquired to see if they offer a ‘spy free’ service, where i could pay more to not be spyed on…

    first the young woman i was speaking with, who was chewing gum in my ear, began to inform me of her absolute ignorance of world affairs in a valley girl voice, in forming me directly and without shame that she didnt pay any attention to politics because it has nothing to do with her life!

    i got frustrated with the call and hung up…yet the phone rang again…ATT&T had called back! it was a supervisor, who started trying to question me as to the nature of my knowledge of a ‘spying program’ and was feigning total ignorance, as though he was also unaware of any such thing. and began questioning what it was i had to hide anyway. it was obvious he was bored at work and was trying to entertain himself by harassing me. so i again hung up.

    heres where it gets really freaky…they call back a third time! at this point im working out my escape plan to mexico, and wondering if i should put my hard drive in a microwave for good measure!

    has this for of deliberate harassment ever happened to anyone else?


  33. ummm… I really feel for the poor woman in the ad, desperately trying to hide her particular pron fetish from the man; just beginning to realize the futility of the attempt. Sigh.

  34. I admire and respect the wisdom and wit of the fair beloved of Hadrian and the wily pickle squid.

  35. OK smartypants, the system is called SCAN, we used to joke and refer to it as SNAC.
    It is still in use in every ordinary telephone call in the UK.
    I don’t know if the mobile operators have a similair sytem, but I would be suprised if they didn’t.
    Before exchanges went digital, they would have to physically put 10,000 croc-clips on the frame connected to an early computer.

  36. #17: Nothing as tame as midget porn. I say amputee porn.

    Simplify, Organize, Liberate sounds like something the kids in “The Wave” would shout while giving their little team power salute. Then at the end, when they realize they’ve been working not for Hitler, but rather for AT&T, they all have a good cry and renounce their ways.

  37. If anyone (in authority) makes a comment about how, if you’ve got nothing to hide, you should comply with any and all of their invasive procedures… just ask them if they’d mind taking off all their clothes in public.

    What? No? But surely they’ve got nothing to hide? OH – SO NOW THEY FINALLY UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF PRIVACY!!!

    Not that you can reason with these people, of course.

  38. #46 – Problem with that argument is…what if they DON’T mind? I tried arguing something along those lines once, and it kind of blew up in my face. Turned out the corporate lackey in question was something of an exhibitionist IRL, and got rather turned on by the idea of strangers nosing into her business.

    It is one of those reasons the typical argument opposing the statement “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” lacks completeness. ‘Our’ side basically boils down to “Yes – you DO have something to hide, even you, you may just not be thinking about it at the moment.”

    Problem is…some people really don’t. I mean, really, REALLY don’t. And if they think that is okay/normal, how do you argue this point with them? To such a person, *literally* the only thing to hide is illegal things – absolutely anything else is fair game for public consideration.

  39. you explain what life was like under Stalin, under Hitler,under McCarthy,under Mao ekctera ad nauseum. You explain that “nothing to hide” doesn’t mean anything to the Spanish Inquisition because THEY ARE NOT LOOKING FOR ANYTHING. Your screams on the slab are the reason,the object,the everything.

  40. #33 has a point, actually.

    Intended or not, posing the headline as a question can be a somewhat unprofessional way to do PR damage without substantiating the basis for it.

    Even if it’s not meant to do harm, the genie is out of the bottle as it were and even if the question’s answer is not what is assumed, the word is out and often assumed to be true… and the person/group responsible for publishing it didn’t even have to prove the point to get that info circulating.

    I’m sure we’re all inclined to not give a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys since the target is AT&T in this instance but questionable practices are questionable practices regardless of who they’re pointed at.

  41. Yeah boo on them spying on me… I’m busy posting all of the same info on twitter. Why not just watch that lol. Schizo liberty for some no abortions for others and so forth.

  42. Reid: “It’s as if their marketing department thinks that warrantless wiretapping is funny or something.”

    AT&T doesn’t think warrant-less wiretapping is funny.

    But they do think being able to tell customers to go fuck themselves over the issue of warrant-less wiretapping is hilarious.

    — SCAM

  43. All I have to say is join me on my carrier. I have no complaints and they did not or will not engage in spying on you without a court order:

    Plus a small portion of your bill goes to some good causes.

  44. I thought blogs were an accurate source of disclosing “hidden” information. But after reading the comments posted about the AT&T online billing ad, blogging is just a source for gossiping, rumor milling, venting, witch hunting, etc. I remember seeing those AT&T web ads about 4 or 5 years ago when I signed up for online billing. I remember it because I thought it was a weird ad campaign but that’s about it. And, now after 5 years some bloggerhead links it to AT&T warrentless wiretapping…. what a waste of time.

  45. Actually, crayfish, blogs are mostly a source for badly scanned porn from the early nineties. What prison are you in where they force you to read BoingBoing. Maybe I can get a transfer.

  46. I hate knowing that ATT violated my privacy (I have one of their cell phones plans) and knowing that they do not care, knowing that not enough clients will cancel their plans because of it, and that people in the government wont go to jail for it. If I could organize thousands of people, I would get them to move their accounts over to tmobile with complaint letters about this horrible disgusting experience & get them to take not. If we as a country, as a group, could ever pull this off, I gurantee you corporations wouldn’t pull this @#$% in the future. They care far more about cash than helping the feds.

  47. Oh lord, is BB turning into “The Consumerist,” with all of their strident screeching?
    That would suck.

  48. From the 2046 edition of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “AT&T’s marketing department were the first ones with their backs against the wall when the revolution came.”

  49. @ rad head:

    Actually, I’ve been putting off getting a cell phone again for a while now, and it’s probably time to quit resisting. Credo looks pretty good. Thanks for the tip.

  50. Freedom is so passe.
    It is more convenient and entertaining to give my money to my masters.
    Someone told me that these big Freedom Destroying companies would be brought to their knees if Americans stopped using their services and giving them money,but how could I live? How would I know what Britney is up to?
    How would I watch all my faves like Justin and Brad?
    I never heard of the Constitution so why should I care?! Lets go buy stuff.

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