Regardless of how you may feel about the unconstitutional Patriot Act, it’s potential for abuse remains it’s most problematic feature. Having fulfilled it’s usefulness, the act was supposed to have expired this year. But bad laws die hard in Washington. Congress and the President gave it a 4 year extension earlier this year due to “ongoing threats”. I believe that the most feared threat in Washington is the loss of all of the bureaucracy the Patriot Act created that it’s sunset could defund.
Most troubling is how the Patriot Act lends itself to the ongoing assault on our rights in the virtual world. I believe that there are those in Government and industry who are making a very proactive and deliberate effort to mute the Constitution’s power in the cloud. The potential for overreaching thanks to unchecked authority is a disaster waiting to happen. The Patriot Act provides for so called emergency surveillance with out due process. With no more terror activity taking than in the last eight or so years, a 400% increase in Internet snooping seems a little extraordinary.
According to an official DOJ report, the use of “emergency”, warrantless requests to ISPs for customer communications content has skyrocketed over 400% in a single year.
The 2009 report (pdf), which I recently obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request (it took DOJ 11 months (pdf) to give me the two-page report), reveals that law enforcement agencies within the Department of Justice sought and obtained communications content for 91 accounts. This number is a significant increase over previous years: 17 accounts in 2008 (pdf), 9 accounts in 2007 (pdf), and 17 accounts in 2006 (pdf). (Slight Paranoia)
At the very least DOJ has some explaining to do. Congress is supposed to provide oversight. Will it? Will so called civil libertarians like the EFF seek answers in the courts? I’m not seeing much indication either are interested. I hope I am wrong.
The right to voluntarily reveal ones identity is part and parcel the right to free speech and privacy. Unfortunately there are a great many self declared emperors of the net who think that just because the interwebs constitute a virtual world that it’s just fine to use it to trample on the rights of very real people. While this attitude is dominant among statist pols and bureaucrats, it’s also being adopted by out of touch enterprise management at an alarming rate.
Facebook isn’t new to the concept of ignoring its users rights whenever it eased monetization to the point of treating users like cattle. The latest target of the Zuckerberg ranch? The fundamental right to privacy through anonymity. Whole Facebook’s requirement that users must post and use their real names, at least they have to right of opt out of subscribing. That seems to annoy it’s marketing director who apparently wants to lord over the territory outside of Facebook where she has no control:
…..there is one person for whom insisting on the use of real names on social networking sites is not enough. Unsurprisingly, that person is Facebook’s Marketing Director, Randi Zuckerberg. Speaking last week on a panel discussion about social media hosted by Marie Claire magazine, Zuckerberg said,
I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away. People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors. (EFF)
Dear Ms, Zuckerberg: As Americans, we have the right to meet anonymously behind closed doors in both the real and virtual worlds. There is no legal distinction between them no matter how much you wish it could be so. It’s OK to prohibit that on your privately owned site, but not OK in the greater public ether known as the internet. I strongly urge you to consider moving yourself to any of the socialist states on the planet if that chafes you too much.
Unfortunately, Ms, Zuckerberg will find many quick allies in the halls of Congress. Agree? Then it’s time to fire your representatives in upcoming primary elections and run, not walk, away from the Facebook cattle ranch.
Google is a on the slippery slope. With so much information about us, as it continues to gather more, the value of that information is growing. The business of knowing more about us and selling it for enormous profit is nothing new. The three major credit bureaus have been doing it for decades. Not only do those bureaus collect and sell out data, with each year they add more detailed information with nearly no accountability. Potentially, Google has even more information on us, ranging from heath records to the mac addresses of our Wifi routers. The company has been very busy cozying up to pols and bureaucrats in Washington, and I’m sure squelching any complaints about invasion of our privacy is high on its lobbyists punch lists.
Google, which is said be “agonizing” over the balance between user privacy and advertising opportunities. It’s a long piece that you should read in full, but essentially the WSJ claims that Larry Page and Sergey Brin have gone from strictly forbidding any efforts to track users online to a more subtle interpretation of their famous “don’t be evil” motto which allows them to leverage user data and sell finely targeted ads without “exploiting customers.” (Endgadget)
Google has been able to assemble so much information so quickly by offering an ever growing suite of services, mostly free. By putting all of you data in Google’s basket, you’re enabling them, with implied consent. At least that’s how the company will spin it when the privacy cries get louder.