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US prisons allegedly record more inmate calls than they should (update: response)

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It might not just be everyday people who've been subject to illegal surveillance -- prisoners may be victims, too. An anonymous hacker has given The Intercept phone records showing that prisons have recorded "at least" 14,000 calls between inmates and lawyers through software from Securus. As you might imagine, that potentially represents huge violations of both the attorney-client privilege and Sixth Amendment protections against interference with your right to counsel. Prosecutors could use these recordings to cheat at trial by getting case details that they're not supposed to know. In fact, a recent Austin lawsuit accuses Securus of contributing to just that kind of trickery.

Moreover the security of those recordings is also doubtful at best. On top of this hack, which covers 70 million total calls, there was also a previously undisclosed data breach in 2014 that swiped call data for former New England Patriots player and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez. Securus isn't commenting on either intrusion, but there's a real danger that hackers could use these bulk data records to compromise convicts and witnesses. Even if all the attorney calls are completely above board, prisons may have to narrow the scope of their recording (much like the USA Freedom Act has asked of the NSA) to limit the possibility of abuse.

Update: Not surprisingly, Securus isn't too happy. It suspects that this was more likely an insider leak than a hack, and insists that there were no attorney-client calls recorded without the permission of both sides. There's no explanation for the 2014 breach, though. Check out the full statement below.

"Securus is contacting law enforcement agencies in the investigation into media reports that inmate call records were leaked online. Although this investigation is ongoing, we have seen no evidence that records were shared as a result of a technology breach or hack into our systems. Instead, at this preliminary stage, evidence suggests that an individual or individuals with authorized access to a limited set of records may have used that access to inappropriately share those records.

We will fully support law enforcement in prosecution of any individuals found to have illegally shared information in this case. Data security is critically important to the law enforcement and criminal justice organizations that we serve, and we implement extensive measures to help ensure that all data is protected from both digital and physical breaches.

It is very important to note that we have found absolutely no evidence of attorney-client calls that were recorded without the knowledge and consent of those parties. Our calling systems include multiple safeguards to prevent this from occurring. Attorneys are able to register their numbers to exempt them from the recording that is standard for other inmate calls. Those attorneys who did not register their numbers would also hear a warning about recording prior to the beginning of each call, requiring active acceptance.

We are coordinating with law enforcement and we will provide updates as this investigation progresses."

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