The RISKS Digest
Volume 3 Issue 10

Friday, 20th June 1986

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

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


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 field.”

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 protected.

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 majority.

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.”

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