Activating your iPhone? read this!
Thu Jul 5, 2007 15:23

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Activating your iPhone? read this!
Date: Thu, 05 Jul 2007 13:18:26 -0400
From: rj3@comcast.net
To: Learning Electronically About Freedom mailing service

From: "McIntosh, Doug" : That’s AT&T, NOT Apple. And just TRY and get cellphone (or even landline) phone service WITHOUT revealing your SS Number. Can’t be done. It sucks. I hate it. It is NOT my “Federal ID number”, etc, etc. But that was NOT Apple demanding it. iTunes activation has NEVER required your SS Number. I know from personal experience that Apple Warranty Registration does NOT require your SS Number. Ipso-facto, this is NOT “Evil Apple”; it is Evil AT&T, and even Steve Jobs is unlikely to keep AT&T’s billing department from demanding SS Numbers.

I just wish the FUD sh+t would STOP on the iPhone. Last night, I saw a “news” piece on WRTV 6 (I believe) on “Cheaper alternatives to the iPhone”. Two out of three product mentions were for Verizon services. Coincidence? Remember, this was aired as a NEWS piece, NOT an “Advertisement”. But it was exactly that.

Oh, and BTW, anal-ists have looked at the TCO for the iPhone versus the Crackberry, BlackJack or the Treo, and found that the per-month charges are on par or even LESS for the iPhone.


Before you activate your iPhone, read this!
Posted by Michael Tiemann
I was casually cruising the news sites yesterday when I came across a
story about porting "ineligible" numbers to AT&T and iPhone. I clicked
on the story because I know some of the people who lobbied for and won
the rights to treat phone numbers more like personal property you own
than corporate property you rent. I was right with the author until he
said (without comment or outrage):

On that screen, enter your name, Social Security number, and your
current billing information and home telephone.
Say WHAT!?

Apple and AT&T are demanding customers reveal SSNs to activate their
iPhones. That should be the lead of every technology and business
article written this week. If you don't believe me, read on.

SSN required to activate iPhone!

(Credit: AppleInsider.com)

This weekend, 525,000 people, my wife, Amy, included, purchased the
Apple iPhone. Those who purchased the phone via the Web, like Amy,
were given a place in a virtual waiting line two to four weeks long,
with a lengthy "homework assignment" to pass the time. Those who
braved the crowds to purchase the phone at retail stores were rewarded
with a form of instant gratification--the opportunity to activate
their iPhone using an online activation mechanism that requires
subscribers to enter a Social Security number (SSN). While Amy was at
first disappointed to wait, I've convinced her that she got the far
better deal. During this two- to four-week "cooling off period" she at
least has some time to consider how best to protect herself from a
consumer protection disaster in the making.

It is well known that Apple is a very secretive company. This does not
necessarily mean that it handles personal data more responsibly than a
very transparent company, it just means that it's very difficult for
an average person like me to discover the truth about what it is doing
and what it is hiding. But AT&T? The company is a defendant in a
class-action lawsuit after a federal judge denied AT&T's motions to
have the case dismissed. The case alleges that AT&T gave the NSA
"unchecked backdoor access to its communications network and its
record databases," violating the law and the privacy of its customers.
Whatever the court may find, the AT&T case clearly demonstrates why it
is profoundly bad judgment to give a telephone company (or most any
other company) sensitive personal identifying information such as
one's SSN. Period.

Before writing me off as a privacy kook, consider this testimony from
1992 by the group Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
(CPSR) before the Special Joint Subcommittee Studying State and
Commercial Use of Social Security Numbers for Transactional
Identification. According to testimony, "[until] 1972, each card
issued was emblazoned with the phrase 'Not to be used for ID
purposes.'" It cited a report by the U.S. Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare that recommended, in unqualified terms, that
the SSN not be used as an identifier (bold text in the original

We recommend against the adoption of any nationwide, standard,
personal identification format, with or without the SSN, that would
enhance the likelihood of arbitrary or uncontrolled linkage of records
about people, particularly between government or government-supported
automated personal data systems.
This advice was not followed, and by 1992 the CPSR reported the dismal
facts: "Unfortunately, [the Federal Privacy Act of 1974] has not been
effective due to bureaucratic resistance from inside the government,
lack of an effective oversight mechanism, and the uncontrolled use of
the SSN in the private sector." When states like California, New York,
Virginia and others passed legislation in the mid-1990s requiring the
collection of an applicant's SSN to issue a driver's license, they
effectively flattened 60 years of privacy protection, and they
effectively exposed every citizen to a degree of identity risk that
was, and remains, unconscionable.

And so what has been the legacy of the government ignoring its own
advice and the advice of leading computer experts? Precisely what the
CPSR predicted: identity theft is now the most prevalent complaint
received by the FTC, and it's America's fastest-growing crime. Unlike
a video game that just eats your quarter and says "GAME OVER," a
stolen identity can ruin your credit score, drain your bank account,
endow you with a lengthy criminal record, or grant you an entry on the
no-fly list. More troubling, identity theft can be a one-way ticket to
a world in which the bits on some agent's computer screen matter more
than your own testimony, a world in which the term habeas corpus is a
lexical artifact rather than a constitutional guarantee, a world in
which your physical self can be suborned based on what is believed
about your virtual self.

On December 18, 2006, Tom Zeller reported "An Ominous Milestone: 100
Million Data Leaks" in the Technology section of The New York Times.
The number of confirmed victims is at least 15 million. The cost is
estimated at more than $50 billion a year. In health care terms, we
have more than 100 million "exposed," 15 million "affected," and a
cost of, well, more than $50 billion. How did we get here? And what
are we going to do about this virtual epidemic?

Identity theft is not a new crime, but the combination of corporate
opportunism and governmental policies designed to amplify rather than
mitigate the risks have conspired to create a near-perfect storm. In
simple terms, the more of our lives we commit to technology, the
larger and more vulnerable a target we make ourselves to technical
exploitation, including identity theft. Don't get me wrong: there are
some computer-based technologies that allow for far better security
than any other methods I know, but security is only as strong as its
weakest link, and the more links you involve, especially the more
parties you involve, the weaker things get. Conversely, the fewer keys
you use, the more dependent you become on the strength of each key.
Some keys (like the launch codes for our strategic nuclear missles)
are very well-protected indeed. But if a key is weak, or is not
particularly well-protected, you don't want to risk much if it fails.

The security records of many companies are dismal. We don't actually
know how bad they are, because most companies don't even report
breaches to themselves, let alone to the government or their
customers. Don't ask, don't tell. But we get a glimpse every now and
again, and frankly the best way to protect oneself is to use the least
possible personal information to complete a transaction, favoring
companies that request less personal information over those who demand
too much. (Another approach to minimizing the problem is to merely
deny its severity. For example, when the news broke that 26.5 million
personal records of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs went
missing, Avivah Litan, a security analyst for the Gartner Group,
argued that the problem was not very serious because "Frankly,
veterans don't have a lot of money." Frankly, I don't find that line
of reasoning particularly compelling.)

And it gets worse. Individuals who can be victimized by their own data
can also become collective victims of those with whom they are
associated. As Bruce Schneier wrote for Wired magazine:

Contrary to decades of denials, the U.S. Census Bureau used individual
records to round up Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The Census Bureau normally is prohibited by law from revealing data
that could be linked to specific individuals; the law exists to
encourage people to answer census questions accurately and without
fear. And while the Second War Powers Act of 1942 temporarily
suspended that protection in order to locate Japanese-Americans, the
Census Bureau had maintained that it only provided general information
about neighborhoods.

New research proves they were lying.

The whole incident serves as a poignant illustration of one of the
thorniest problems of the information age: data collected for one
purpose and then used for another, or "data reuse."

It is bad enough that the government might collect data for one
(lawful) purpose and then use it for another (nefarious) purpose, but
what happens when all data is keyed by a single key, such as a Social
Security number (SSN), which itself was never designed for the purpose
of personal identification? And what happens when that number is
leaked (100 million instances and counting) or stolen (15 million
instances and counting)? The opportunities for abuse, both within and
outside the system become virtually limitless. (And legislation passed
in 2005 has only served to accelerate both the breadth and depth of
these opportunities.)

Which is why the iPhone activation mechanism is so troubling, because
it compels people in the heat of the moment to do something they
should never do if given a moment's thought. Now, I'm sure that it's
possible to get a phone activated without giving up one's SSN. I did
it with my carrier several years ago by walking the issue up to a VP's
desk and posting a $1,000 bond for two years. So it can be done. But
should it be so hard? And how are we going to teach our children the
importance of protecting personal information when the laws of the
state and mainstream corporate behavior make it virtually impossible
to do so?

The only solution I can see is that our family will have to
dramatically expand the lesson of "you are responsible for you" beyond
the basics of verbal and physical conduct. If you have any good
references on how to teach your third-grader the ins and outs of
identity management and information security, I'd be happy to receive
them now. In the meantime, we'll let you know whether we find a way to
activate Amy's new iPhone without handing over sensitive personal
information to a company that has demonstrated no respect for personal
privacy or identifying data.

Michael Tiemann is president of the Open Source Initiative and vice
president of open source affairs at Red Hat. He is a member of the
CNET Blog Network.

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