Shockwaves have rippled through the world recently in the face of a massive leak of phone records from the large phone call service provider Securus Technologies. The leak showed a massive violation of privacy rights.
For those unfamiliar with Securus Technologies, a little introduction might be in order. This is a firm that is in bed with county governments and state departments of corrections which spread Securus’ operations across 37 states in the US at the very least.
Securus is known for huge rates on inmate calls. They used to charge up to $14/min(!) before the regulation. Now, they are still charging much more than the call would normally cost.
In the year 2014 Securus reported revenue of over $404 million. In short, it comes as no surprise that a hack into its database leaked over seventy million recorded prison phone calls.
The surprise is in the constitution of the seventy million calls, not to mention the fact that someone managed to hack such a company. It is hard to reconcile a company of such repute and such actions as recording confidential conversations between a prisoner and their attorney.
The communications giant markets itself mainly on the premise of the superior technology it possesses in the form of the Secure Call Platform. This allows for recording and monitoring of all calls going out from prisoners with a few exceptions.
It is supposed to be superior in its security, the database being impenetrable except by the few with authorized access. The main aim of such recordings is for the protection of people both inside and outside the prison, and crime solving as they may provide evidence in any sort of investigation. That a man was able to get through to the fortress, make out the records and go ahead to publish them online is a source of concern.
The criminal justice system is anchored on the premise that a defendant may be able to converse freely with their attorney. The sixth amendment unequivocally entitles them to be competent and effective legal counsel who can only be so if they can explicitly communicate their position to the advocate.
It may be intrinsically accepted that once in jail, many a man’s right is limited, but the attorney-client privilege is always constitutionally protected. These are conversations that should by no means be recorded let alone stored. Such recordings are unconstitutional and are one of the acts that motivated the hacker who leaked them.
Find out how to avoid Self-Incrimination on the Phone.
Outside the relatively limited context of imprisonment, it is a matter of concern how much information is retained on not only the prisoners but also all the other people with whom they are affiliated.
In the records unearthed were prisoners’ first and last names, phone numbers called, date, time and duration of the call. If the rights to privacy of the prisoners are justifiably withdrawn to a large extent, where is it supposed to stop?
It becomes blurred at which point the breach goes from the prisoner’s right to the liberties of their associates outside of prison and who should have all their rights intact.
Securus Technologies seem to understand this going by their proposals. In one such proposal they commit to record and monitor all but privileged calls. The leaked records prove otherwise.
Even in the case of calls that are not privileged, legal experts suggest that the waiver of rights should only be to the extent that they cover the conditions that necessitate them. There is, therefore, no justifying that calls bearing nothing but intimate details between a couple should be recorded and stored indefinitely.
This only heightens the chance of exposure of the communication and violating their rights, which is exactly what has happened.