[ISN] Another telecom headache for law enforcement: Portability

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Fri Sep 11 1998 - 13:16:42 PDT

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    September 8, 1998
    Another telecom headache for law enforcement: Portability
         By Heather Weaver
    WASHINGTON =97Imagine for a moment law enforcement is able to convince the
    Federal Communications Commission to approve all the items it is asking
    for to implement the digital wiretap act. And, then imagine you are a law
    enforcement officer wishing to set up a wiretap on a suspected criminal.
    It should be e asy, right? Get the court order, serve it and set up the
    In the emerging days of competition and with the deployment of number
    portability, it increasingly is becoming difficult for law enforcement to
    know which telecom carrier should be served the wiretap subpoena.=20
    In the old days, law enforcement could get one court order and serve it on
    Ma Bell. Today and increasingly in the future, multiple orders may be
    necessary. Law enforcement says it can live with that, but sometimes
    officers are unable to find out which or how many, court orders they will
    The telephone number is the necessary element in all of this. Once law
    enforcement has determined the telephone number for the person they want
    to tap (or whose records they want retrieved), then law enforcement
    sometimes can identify which carrier=97wireline or wireless=97to contact by
    referring to the Local Exchange Routing Guide. The LERG lists all of the
    exchanges, known as NXXs to the telecommunications industry, and which
    company uses them.=20
    The problem of number portability is more acute in the wireline world
    because wireless carriers are not yet porting customers. Portability
    refers to telephone subscribers keeping their telephone number when
    switching service providers. The Federal Communications Commission=92s
    Wireless Telecommunications Bureau last week delayed the implementation of
    wireless number portability until March 31, 2000.=20
    With the advent of number portability and number pooling, law enforcement
    may have a more difficult time figuring out which carrier services their
    target because the user may have ported his phone number to a different
    Law enforcement=92s problem with wireless is the amount of competition in
    the industry. =91=91Some houses have two or maybe even three wireless phone=
    All from different carriers,=92=92 said one law enforcement officer.=20
    This has been an emerging problem since the days of divestiture but has
    become more noticeable with the advent of local competition and the
    proliferation of wireless technologies. Long-distance carrier information
    is necessary to obtain calling records.=20
    Interim solutions
    An interim solution recently has been deployed in the Midwest and
    Southwest ,known as the integrated voice response unit, which is being
    implemented by Lockheed Martin IMS. This allows law enforcement to call a
    special database, and with a personal identification number, find out
    which carrier serves which number.=20
    The security of using a PIN caused some concern to Jerry O=92Brien, senior
    director of legal and regulatory affairs for Omnipoint Communications
    Inc., at a recent meeting of the North American Numbering Council.=20
    At the meeting, O=92Brien was concerned that using a PIN number would not
    provide enough security. =91=91The security of that [IVR] database is
    paramount. You can=92t have someone hack into the database,=92=92 he said.=
    Who should pay?=20
    Cost also must be addressed before integrated voice response units can be
    deployed nationwide.=20
    The database, in its current rudimentary form, is being funded by the
    limited liability corporations, including Ameritech Corp., GTE Corp. and
    SBC Communications Inc., but other telephone companies are not as
    enthusiastic about funding a program they see as a by-product of a
    government-mandate. =91=91This is a law enforcement issue that the governme=
    should pay for. I am against carriers paying for something that is decreed
    by the government,=92=92 O=92Brien said.=20
    With the IVR database, law enforcement would like certain upgrades and
    some think the carriers should pay for them and continue to pay to
    maintain the database. One of the upgrades would allow access to the IVR
    through a terminal rather than a telephone, which would cut down on the
    time it takes to get the carrier information. Carriers, such as Omnipoint
    Communications, don=92t want to pay for the database or any upgrades until
    mandated to do so.=20
    Such a mandate does not appear to be forthcoming. A recent meeting on IVR
    between Lockheed Martin IMS officials and law enforcement originally was
    intended to include FCC officials, but for unknown reasons, no one at the
    FCC attended the meeting. Additionally, it does not appear the FCC
    officially is aware of the problems caused by portability or the possible
    IVR solution.=20
    O=92Brien thinks that is the first step. =91=91The Department of Justice, t=
    FBI and the [FCC] need to get together and decide what is legal ... There
    is protection of privacy. Carriers are responsible for protecting the
    privacy [of their customers],=92=92 he said.=20
    How to track prepaid users
    Another potential problem for law enforcement are prepaid wireless
    customers, O=92Brien said, who buy coupons for $50 to $200 for a certain
    number of minutes but don=92t always provide their correct name or address.=
    =91=91They have a phone number but we don=92t know where they are. We know =
    the phone is. This doesn=92t mean that anything illegal is happening,=92=92=
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