Busted: Bankers and The Global Economy

August 1, 2010

Digital Privacy Once Again in the Air

Did you know that a proposed amendment to U.S. surveillance law leaves even lawmakers guessing on privacy implications for internet users? Now why would this be? Invasion of privacy in the United States has been ongoing since Bush and 911. With this amendment, many fear the unlimited reach of the FBI where email and internet surfing are concerned. The royal question is being credited against the Obama administration over the responsibility of the lawmakers in the Senate and House. Last I heard, the Senate and House had little to do with the President. Since the Senate and House have more to say with the construction and final wording of this amendment, clearly a visit to your local lawmakers is in order if you care about such things.

Anyone that has been keeping track of digital privacy and security knows that A.T.&T. is already working in collaboration with the federal government to store and rake through all the data that comes into and leaves the States. Suddenly, fear is rampant about the FBI having free access to all that data without a court order, judge approval or oversight. Suspicion or wrongdoing doesn’t enter the picture, just being relevant to an intelligence or terrorism investigation. This amounts to a free season on personal information, as well as all that spam that you get in your email daily. In effect, little has changed in technical terms.

The FBI has already engaged in widespread and serious misuse of its privilege so far. They illegally collect data from both  Americans and foreigners, based on a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that was concluded in 2007. FBI officials issued 192,499 national security letter requests from 2003 to 2006.

The FBI and other internal agencies like the NSA, have come to rely on free access to your personal email and the like. They have free access to information from telephone providers, banks, credit bureau and business, already holding wide powers where personal information is concerned.

The law already requires Internet service providers to produce the records. The want the power to get whatever details they need from internet sources without litigation or preview by judges. A few lawmakers like Patrick Leahy of Vermont have suddenly become concerned about privacy issues and civil liberties, as if these have not already been violated. It’s all about having the necessary tools to “keep Americans safe.”

If you are wondering why anyone should be concerned, all you to do is to examine the vagueness that “law” is written with. The interpretation is often left to the user or implementing agency to decide. Proponents of this amendment say that it is merely clarifying what Congress intended back in 1993. Oh really?

Since a 2008 justice department opinion, some providers have refused access to internet records and web surfing histories. What do you think? If you aren’t watching what you say in your emails and where you browse, you might think twice.

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