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This is rather a "man bites dog" title ;)

Edit: It's also hardly worth reporting, or at least, with the sense of outrage that I get from it. I mean, anyone who cared would realize that the Saudis would track and snoop on cellphone users, no matter where they were. And so nobody who cared about that would use their Saudi phone. They'd just buy a phone at Walmart or wherever.




>anyone who cared would realize that the Saudis would track and snoop on cellphone users, no matter where they were. And so nobody who cared about that would use their Saudi phone. They'd just buy a phone at Walmart or wherever.

That's a very victim blame-y take.

Most people are not HN readers and have no idea what SS7 is.

Even if they know about cell tower tracking they'd probably expect that info would not be handed over by the USA to KSA.


OK, so I'm not Saudi, and perhaps I'm way off base here. But I find it hard to imagine that Saudis -- or at least Saudis who'd be traveling in the US -- wouldn't assume that their government is tracking and monitoring them. Indeed, I'd expect that awareness to be more common in Saudi Arabia than in the US, because the US at least pretends to honor human rights.

Also, an expectation of surveillance doesn't depend on understanding the technology.


>OK, so I'm not Saudi, and perhaps I'm way off base here. But I find it hard to imagine that Saudis -- or at least Saudis who'd be traveling in the US -- wouldn't assume that their government is tracking and monitoring them.

Yes, "they should expect they will have their human rights violated on US soil and it's on them to buy a burner" is off base.

Anyone legally in the United States (including tourists) gets constitutional protections.

You can expect whatever you want but illegal spying on US soil by an authoritarian regime is absolutely a news story.

Every embassy is a spy outpost, but they usually leave people who aren't at least semi-public figures alone.

Then again, maybe everyone is abusing SS7 and KSA is just who got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.


> Yes, "they should expect they will have their human rights violated on US soil and it's on them to buy a burner" is off base.

If that's the case, Saudi censorship is more effective than I'd imagined.

> Anyone legally in the United States (including tourists) gets constitutional protections.

In theory, yes. In practice, it's prudent to assume that the NSA sees everything.

> Then again, maybe everyone is abusing SS7 and KSA is just who got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

That's my default assumption.


It'd be cool to know what Saudis generally believe about their government's surveillance policies. Anyone have any links?


The home carrier does need some information in order to charge the customer the correct amount (and apply any promotions for roaming rates when roaming in certain places).

Also, location data makes it easier to handle disputes in case customers see unexpected charges on their bill and dispute a charge. A place like "Kettleman City" might seem unfamiliar, but if your carrier could also show you that you made calls from Los Angeles the day before, you could reasonably conclude it was a call made while driving in California and not an erroneous charge.

So there is a balance to strike here.

The difference is the level of government access to the location data though. The legal standard in the US is that the government must obtain a warrant to access cell site location information[1].

In Saudi, telecoms are pretty much controlled by the government and can see everything.

Perhaps the best option for those who live in authoritarian countries is to remove your SIM card while roaming and have a voicemail message asking people to email you.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpenter_v._United_States


> The legal standard in the US is that the government must obtain a warrant to access cell site location information[1].

Sure. But it's pretty clear that the NSA ignores laws.

> Perhaps the best option for those who live in authoritarian countries is to remove your SIM card while roaming and have a voicemail message asking people to email you.

Or just leave the phone at home. If for no other reason, because it'll likely get inspected when you enter the US.


Leaving the phone at home is harder than it sounds for people who fly long distances. It means you're 24+ hours, 3 planes and two layovers, plus taxi rides or rental cars, without a phone.

And you have to then communicate your temporary local phone number to your existing contacts, including your boss/coworkers and your family, but somehow do that without your phone. Not impossible, but very annoying. And you might need your phone for 2FA login to your work email.




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