Obama's Cellphone Records Breached by Verizon Employees

Billing data for a cellphone account belonging to Barack Obama was "improperly breached" by Verizon employees, according to the president-elect's transition team. Obama's spokesperson says the phone was old and no longer in use. There is no indication that email records were accessed or voicemails or call contents monitored. Snip:
Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the team was notified Wednesday by Verizon Wireless that it appears an employee improperly went through billing records for the phone, which Gibbs said Obama no longer uses.

In an internal company e-mail obtained by CNN, Verizon Wireless President and CEO Lowell McAdam disclosed Wednesday that "the personal wireless account of President-elect Barack Obama had been accessed by employees not authorized to do so" in recent months.

McAdam wrote in the e-mail that the phone in question has been inactive for "several months" and was a simple voice flip-phone, meaning none of Obama's e-mail could have been accessed. The CEO also wrote the company has alerted "the appropriate federal law enforcement authorities."

Gibbs said that while the Secret Service has been notified, he is not aware of any criminal investigation. He said he believes it was billing records that were accessed.

Obama's cell phone records breached (CNN)


  1. It’s good that we can trust the big telecommunications corps. to act in our best interest at all times, right?

  2. I guess he knows what it feels like to have the phone company spy on him. I wonder if he will give the offender retroactive immunity?…..FISA…cough…cough….

  3. If I were one of the Verizon employees I’d just claim Patriot Act. Since it’s openly known that Barack Hussein Obama, “Pals around with terrorist,” that would give them some kind of Probable Cause to monitor the man’s communication. Wouldn’t it?

  4. “the personal wireless account of President-elect Barack Obama had been accessed by employees not authorized to do so”

    Err, so some other employees WERE authorized to do so? Sounds bad no matter how you spin it.

    1. Well, @dimmer, they’re records for a reason, SOMEONE should have access to them, because they serve some purpose. So if they’re billing records, then billing personnel in the course of executing legitimate duties might access them. But here, the context and/or the parties involved were not legit.

      1. If we could just get Obama to illegally access Britney Spears’ medical records, the universe would implode and we could start over. I want to be the top hat next time.

  5. What’s interesting about this is that it’s likely that all the employee was able to see is the phone number of the incoming and outgoing calls and the duration of those calls.

    Just to play Devil’s Advocate, since Obama wants to have an extremely “open” administration, should he really care if it’s known who he called?

    Also, give me a break — you know the employees of ALL the carriers are constantly looking at the usage of celebrities. One wonders how many male employees jot down all the phone numbers George Clooney calls to see if he can ring them up and land a date. ;)

    Peter Steinberg

  6. @ Petestein

    As for going through celebs’ records… I imagine most corporations are monitoring at whose records their employees are looking.

    I for one used to do customer service for a bank. They logged everything I did. Searching ‘Obama’ would have cost me a job. Same with searching fellow employees, and especially if I searched myself.

    But of course, if he calls up, all his viewable accounts are fair game. I totally had access to Bill Murray’s account numbers and ssn, for instance. Of course, no paper was allowed to be leaving the building unshredded, no cell phones on the floor, etc. I imagine this is the norm.

  7. topical Arzoolaman, but hereafter you should leave the personal blog and commercial linking in your profile – ie: do not in every post.

  8. I vote to give this employee retroactive immunity from prosecution.

    Seriously, I love the guy; but this really is a case of just deserts. I hope that public reaction to it will make him and his fellow law makers reconsider their stance on corporate protections in the future.

  9. As someone who used to work for a cellphone company, it really isn’t that hard to look up the information on a personal account. His personal email account is a whole different story though, especially on an inactive phone. I really don’t see this news story going anywhere.

  10. #17, the point is, YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO. No one is supposed to look at the private records of anyone else unless it is pertinent to the work they are doing. Most employers have very strict policies about this, and many states have laws.

    For example, I work at ACT (American College Testing). If it was ever found that I (or anyone else) looked at a student’s records without having a legitimate work-related reason for doing so, I would be fired. Period. If I ever disclosed such information without authorization, whether my access it to was legitimate or not, I would be fired for that, too.

    The question comes down to this: who owns your information, you or someone else? If it’s you, then others should only be able to access it in the manner in which you have authorized them to do so.

  11. verizon wireless is a division of verizon communications, 45% owned by Vodaphone, a British corporation, it’s not the phone company. it’s employees are non-union (save a few craft positions, you could count them on your fingers). they are essentially all temps anyways, those involved here are surely terminated.
    p.s. – everyone should realize their calls are logged (for billing, of course) & the word ‘wireless’ sums up how secure those transmissions are.

  12. @Antonious, I wanna be the little race car.

    But seriously, I don’t see any problem here; if big telcos can snoop citizens without authorization and get a free pass from the Senate, why shouldn’t a private citizen who happens to be a telco employee feel free to snoop senators without authorization?

    Old Russian folk saying: the fish rots from the head down.


  13. Well at #7/Xeni: way to take the fun out of my (non-)argument!

    Personally, I’d think that until a customer reports an issue, we should just let the automated systems deal with such stuff! There’s a chance, of course, in that scenario that the accounts people might catch something the customer didn’t.

    Oh don’t laugh. Really!

  14. I think the employee did more than get to the record of who he called or not, there are so many things phone comapny will not tell and they did it. There are employees listening in live phone calls at phone company many unsuspicious victims and they don’t fire those people because there will be no one left if then do

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