The Risks Digest

The RISKS Digest

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Volume 3 Issue 10

Friday, 20 June 1986


o Re: Privacy Legislation & Cellular Swiss Cheese (RISKS-3.8)
Geoff Goodfellow
o Re: Privacy Legislation (RISKS-3.6) [divulging]
Dan Franklin
o Re: Privacy Legislation (RISKS-3.6) [radar detectors]
Herb Lin
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Re: Privacy Legislation & Cellular Swiss Cheese (RISKS-3.8)

the tty of Geoffrey S. Goodfellow <crcwdc!geoff@seismo.CSS.GOV>
19 Jun 86 11:19:03 EDT (Thu)
I co-authored an article on the ease of which cellular can be spoofed,
COMINT'd and SIGINT'd in the November issue of PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS
TECHNOLOGY.  An on-line copy of the article may be FTP'd with 'anonymous'
login from [SRI-CSL]<Geoff>Article.Celllar-Sieve or by sending me a
message requesting one by reply copy.

With respect to the impending facade of Privacy Through Legislation,
here is a good report on it which appeared on the Info-Hams mailing list.
Pay special attention to such gems as how Cordless phones are not included,
and the different level of protection afforded to Cellular abusers vs. the
traditional mobile telephone IMTS systems on 150 and 450 Mhz.

    Geoff Goodfellow
    Cellular Radio Corp.
    Vienna, VA

[Note:  This  HamNet  Electronic Edition is  a  limited   excerpt
from   the  full published edition [Vol 8 #11 — 6/01/86] of  The
W5YI  Report.     Selected   and   prepared   by   Scott,   W3VS.
Commercial redistribution of this copy is prohibited.]

Up  to  the minute  news  from  the  worlds  of  amateur   radio,
personal  computing  and   emerging   electronics.     While   no
guarantee  is  made,  information is  from  sources  we   believe
to  be  reliable.    May  be reproduced providing credit is given
to The W5YI Report.

o Electronic Privacy Bill Passes Subcommittee

Legislation extending protection  against  unwarranted  interception  of
electronic  communications  by  outsiders  passed  its  first  and  most
difficult test during mid-May.  RF signals present throughout our  homes
will no longer be public domain if HR 3378 ultimately becomes law.

After weeks of negotiation, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on  Courts,
Civil Liberties and the Administration of Justice reached  a  compromise
agreement  with  the  Department  of  Justice  setting  the  stage   for
subcommittee  approval.    The  mark-up  session  was  packed  with  120
spectators crowded into a room designed for 60.

Most of Justice's problems  had  to  do  with  adding  barriers  to  law
enforcement efforts.  The bill, as approved, requires the government  to
obtain  detailed  search  warrants  to  intercept  and  use   electronic
messages in transit.  The subcommittee acknowledged that they still  had
a couple of things to  work  out  in  the  "foreign  counterintelligence

The legislation, the Electronic Communications Privacy  Act  brings  the
Wiretap  Act  of  1968  up-to-date  by  including  such   communications
services as cellular radio, computer data transfer, electronic mail  and
satellite communications not in use when the act was first passed.   The
final draft of HR 3378 was  unanimously  approved  after  two  suggested
amendments  (which  made  sense  to  us)  were  defeated.    The   final
subcommittee vote had been delayed three times previously.

The bill is far reaching and will effect nearly every  American  in  one
way  or  another.    While  legislators,  the  media,  and  the  various
electronic industries are  widely  portraying  the  bill  as  protecting
cellular privacy, it doesn't at all.  Cellular phones,  of  course,  are
the space age version of the old car radio telephone.

The bill particularly affects hobby,  industrial  and  government  radio
users and  listeners  in  that  it  details  what  can-  and  cannot  be
monitored.   Supporters  of  the  legislation  include  such  industrial
giants as IBM, AT&T, MCI, Motorola, GE, GTE, Bell telephone,  all  three
TV networks, ... and various telephone, videotex,  electronic  mail  and
computer equipment trade organizations.

Since most of us are concerned  with  the  personal  use  of  electronic
communications and the right to monitor  the  radio  spectrum,  we  will
focus on that aspect.

A  new  definition  of  electronic  eavesdropping  has  been   proposed.
Instead of "acquisition of the content", it is now "interception of  the
transmission of the content."

A penalty of up to a year in jail and $10,000 fine would be  imposed  on
those intercepting certain transmissions not intended  for  the  general
public in the shortwave band...such as remote broadcast pickup  stations
operating around  26  MHz  and  perhaps  ship-to-shore  radio  telephone
conversations.    Any  encrypted  (scrambled)  transmissions  are   also

Strangely, scanner owners are subject to the year in  jail/$10,000  fine
if they tune in the old 150/450  MHz  carphone  service  -  but  only  6
months in jail and a $500 fine if they  listen  to  a  900  MHz  celluar
phone call!

Specifically exempted from coverage by the bill are all  amateur  radio,
CB and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) communications.    Ham  auto-
patch  telephone  calls  therefore  are  not  affected  even  though   a
participant expecting privacy might not be aware that the radio  portion
of the call is being widely transmitted.

The radio portion of a private telephone call terminated by  a  cordless
phone is also not privacy protected "since these  calls  can  be  easily
intercepted." The subcommittee noted that the FCC  requires  manufactur-
ers to include privacy disclaimers with cordless equipment.

Actually, just about any radiotelephone call can be easily  intercepted,
but the legislators perceived some as  harder  than  others.    Cellular
phone calls can even be received on consumer TV sets.

Broadcast services not intended for the public (such as  a  piggy-backed
FM subcarrier service) may not be monitored.

Radio services not protected by the bill include "any  station for  the
use  of  the  general  public,  or  that  relates  to  ships,  aircraft,
vehicles, or persons in distress" as well as "any marine,  aeronautical,
governmental,  law  enforcement,  civil  defense,  or   public    safety
communications ...readily accessible  [not  encrypted]  to  the  general
public." Thus, you can listen  to  ongoing  law  enforcement  manuevers
....even Air Force One, but not a random phone call you might  hit  upon
in the spectrum.

What can be monitored by satellite  dish  owners  was  specifically  not
resolved since  this  question  is  currently  before  the  House  Tele-
communications Subcommittee.

Private fixed microwave links, FM subcarriers, and  broadcast  auxiliary
or remote pickup stations were specifically protected.

Rep. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) offered two  amendments  at  the  subcommittee
mark-up session dealing with cellular phone calls.

DeWine, a former prosecuting attorney, said that while he was  in  basic
agreement with the intent of the bill, he was troubled by the fact  that
old television sets  still  being  sold  can  inadvertantly  overhear  a
cellular phone call.  He  also  said  that  scanner  marketing  was  not
covered by the bill... "If a scanner stops at a cellular  phone  channel
...this bill means that (a scanner listener)  could  be  imprisoned  for
six months ...even if he did not disclose the information.

He  acknowledged  that  the  Justice  Department  told  them  that  they
wouldn't enforce scanner (or TV) cellular listening but "it's  basically
bad public policy to create a  law  that  everyone  knows  will  not  be
enforced... It brings about a disrespect for the  law.    ...It  weakens
anybody's faith in the criminal justice system.    We  are  not  talking
about  difficult  enforcement.    What  we  are  talking  about  is   an
impossibility,  unless  we   are    willing    to    violate    people's
Consititutional Rights and go into their own homes..."

The bill "...creates the  illusion  of protection,"  DeWine  testified.
"The facts are that it will no more protect (cellular) the day after  we
pass this bill than the day before..."

Rep. DeWine suggested an amendment that would outlaw the  overriding  of
an encrupted telephone conversation.  He said laws  already  exist  that
prohibit divulging  intercepted  information.    He  is  concerned  that
"...the cellular phone industry will use this bill to tell  people  that
they have an expectation of privacy when, in fact, they do not."

Chairman Kastenmeier agreed that the bill could not easily be  enforced,
but that encruption cost was prohibitive ($2,500 for a mobile,  $164,000
for a base station.) Declaring that he didn't want to  make  America  an
encrypted society, he urged defeat of the amendment.

Holding  up  a  scanner  advertisement  which  promoted  listening    to
"radiotelephone conversations that offer more  real-life  intrigue  that
most soap operas," Kastenmeier said "we cannot encourage this!    We  have
set down the rules of the road whereby that is off limits...    Scanners
are very useful devices, and they will continue to be,  excepting  there
ought to be some things that  are  protected  against  even,  yes,  even
against scanners." A voice  vote  defeated  the  amendment  by a  clear

A second amendment was introduced by DeWine,  eliminating  the  6  month
prision sentence from the cellular penalty.  That too was rejected.

With no further amendment being offered,  the  substitute  draft  of  HR
3378 was unanimously adopted by voice vote.  The Subcommittee agreed  to
report the bill out to the Judiciary Committee for further action.

HR 3378 is still very far from being a law.  It must be approved by  the
Judiciary Committee  and  the  full  House  ...then  reconciled  with  a
similar bill pending before the Senate Copyright  Committee.    It  gets
signed into law by the  president.    The  reality  of  the  matter  is,
however, that government control over radio wave reception in your  home
will indeed be eventually enacted in some form.

Re: RISKS-3.8

Dan Franklin <>
Fri, 20 Jun 86 14:38:35 EDT
> Does anyone have any idea how the last part (radio telephones) could be
> legally supported in view of other legal freedoms?  I thought that one
> was free to listen to any frequency one wished in the US (Canada too).
> You don't have to trespass to receive radio signals.

Receive them, yes; tell anyone else what you heard, no.  As I understand
the law, if a radio signal is part of a conversation--that is, clearly
directed at some specific other person--you are forbidden to divulge the
contents of that signal to a third party.  You might be forbidden to make
any other use of it, too; I don't remember for certain.

So eavesdropping is already suspect in current law, and it would not be
such a big change to say, for instance, that you could not *intentionally*
receive radiotelephone signals.  If your neighbor's radiotelephone
happened to come in on your stereo, you wouldn't then be breaking the law.
I do not actually know what the new law says, but there do exist ways to
safeguard privacy without compromising the "right to receive".

    Dan Franklin

Privacy legislation (RISKS-3.6)

Tue, 17 Jun 1986 00:32 EDT
   [On the same topic...]

Not true.  States routinely ban the use of radar detectors, and that
is nothing more than "listening to a frequency."  

   [Well, things seem to be changing.  In California, PASSIVE detectors
    are now legal, and can be bought at Radio Shack among others.  Mail
    order outfits are also doing a boom business.  I presume this is true
    in other states as well.  ACTIVE JAMMERS are of course still illegal.
    [[This messasge does not constitute an endorsement on the advisability
      of using a detector, or of the reliability of any such product.  I
      won't even contemplate the risks involved of using one.]]  PGN]

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