Whatever your thoughts on Rush Limbaugh, he did a tremendous service today in destroying the argument put forward by NSA defenders that ‘meta data is less significant’ than recorded audio. Rush took a call around 1:00 p.m. from an anonymous telecom executive who runs a business collecting data on phone calls for businesses. (In other news, CATO has finally come out strongly against NSA spying. Scroll down for their fantastic video.)
The advent of mobile phones has created a situation where a phone number equals a person, so the phone number’s a much better index for getting everything you know about a person…
RUSH: This is Matt from Miami and it says you are an exec in the telecommunications industry, right?
CALLER: Yes, that’s right, Rush. Thank you so much. It’s been 15 years listening to you, and I’m thrilled that my expertise and your expertise may actually intersect and allow me to make you look good.
RUSH: Well, thanks very much. That is the purpose of a caller, and let’s hope you can do it.
CALLER: Well, first off, I think it’s important to think about motivations. Our president, like all the Democratic presidents, would love to be Bill Clinton after he leaves office, and to do that you need to have power. You need to be a kingmaker. A database can do that. I left a multibillion-dollar phone company to start a smaller company, and our core product is a product that looks up phone numbers instantly when people make or receive phone calls and uses that information to populate details on the screen for people to use in selling or supporting customers, like their name, their address, the value of their home, their marital status, approximate income, approximate assets, cards they have registered to the address they live at, whether they’re in foreclosure, Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter profiles associated with that number. The advent of mobile phones has created a situation where a phone number equals a person, so the phone number’s a much better index for getting everything you know about a person than something that’s less easy and less public like a Social Security number. And so my company sells that information to companies so that they can know who’s calling and route that call better and offer appropriate products or not.
RUSH: Wait a second. I want to be able to follow this. You have a company that sells databases based on phone numbers to other companies. When they get a call from somebody, what happens?
CALLER: When they get a call from somebody, we get that incoming or outgoing number through a database, we pull up a record with that phone number –
RUSH: Where? Who’s seeing this at the time the call comes in, where does this go?
CALLER: The person can display it on an iPad, can display on the screen on a computer, you know, any screen.
RUSH: So just the phone number of somebody calling a business, for example –
RUSH: — somebody calls the reception number at a business, your software tells that receptionist, whoever gets the call, everything knowable about that number?
CALLER: That’s right. That’s right. Anything that we can get from any public records databases, so that’s, you know, political registrations, party affiliation, whether you’ve donated to any organization that listed your name publicly –
RUSH: What you do on Twitter, what you do on Facebook, this kind of thing?
CALLER: Exactly. Pull up the last two or three things you put on Twitter or Facebook recently so I could use that to schmooze you as a client, say, “Hey, I see you’re interested in fishing,” or whatever.
RUSH: How long does it take for this information to display once the number is input to your software?
CALLER: The information displays before the phone even rings…