America Online today acknowledged that its Shoutcast audio content site, acquired this month along with its creator Nullsoft, included excerpts of private cell phone conversations that apparently were intercepted.
"We became aware yesterday that there were some users who had posted some audio of cell phone conversations," said AOL spokesperson Tricia Primrose. "When situations like this are brought to our attention we want to act swiftly to review the situation and, if appropriate, take down the content in question."
AOL removed the posts yesterday, Primrose said.
Shoutcast offers client software that lets individual users post audio content to a generally accessible directory.
Both the interception and distribution of cell phone conversations are illegal under federal wiretapping statutes in the United States as well as other countries.
The posting of the cell phone conversations inspired a lengthy thread on news and discussion site Slashdot.org, which first reported the news.
Contributors to the thread noted that while intercepting cell communications may be illegal, it isn't very difficult.
"It is easy to listen to an analog cell phone call," wrote one contributor. "Most people believe that the risk of being arrested for listening into the conversations of others is very low...So, the reasonable conclusion is that you should not assume that cell phone calls are secure."
"Sure it's illegal. So what?" wrote another, sounding the same theme. "You want privacy? Encrypt it."