Saturday, April 17, 2010

Privacy In The Era Of Obama

While the left harangued Bush for the Patriot at, it would seem that Obama is much further along in violating privacy rights than Bush ever was.

It seems the Department of Justice wants to be able to do warrantless searches of emails. According to CNET, "the Justice Department has taken a legalistic approach: a 17-page brief it filed last month acknowledges that federal law requires search warrants for messages in "electronic storage" that are less than 181 days old. 

But, Assistant U.S. Attorney Pegeen Rhyne writes in a government brief, the Yahoo Mail messages don't meet that definition. "Previously opened e-mail is not in 'electronic storage,'" Rhyne wrote in a motion filed last month. "This court should therefore require Yahoo to comply with the order and produce the specified communications in the targeted accounts." (The Justice Department's position is that what's known as a 2703(d) order--not as privacy-protective as the rules for search warrants--should let police read e-mail.)

On December 3, 2009, U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer ordered Yahoo to hand to prosecutors certain records including the contents of e-mail messages. Yahoo divulged some of the data but refused to turn over e-mail that had been previously viewed, accessed, or downloaded and was less than 181 days old."

Google, The Electronic Frontier Foundation The Center For Democracy and Technology, The Progress and Freedom Foundation, The Computer and Communications Industry Association and TRUSTe have formed a coalition with Yahoo to contest the judge's order and try to put a stop to the infringement on privacy. We wish them well.

In a seemingly unrelated case, a youth in Penn Valley Pennsylvania discovered that the laptop he received from school was used to take photographs and videos of him at all times of the day and night of all imaginable conditions. We are talking thousands of pictures. This was done with the authority of the Lower Merion School District. It seems there is a loophole that allows them to do this. Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) introduced legislation to close what he said was a loophole in federal wiretap laws and prevent unauthorized monitoring. Specter recently held a hearing in Philadelphia on the issue.

"Many of us expect to be subject to certain kinds of video surveillance when we leave our homes and go out each day - at the ATM, at traffic lights, or in stores, for example," Specter, who is running for reelection, said on the floor of the Senate. "What we do not expect is to be under visual surveillance in our homes, in our bedrooms and, most especially, we do not expect it for our children in our homes."

According to the article, Robbins, a sophomore at Harriton High School, and his parents, Michael and Holly Robbins, contend e-mails turned over to them by the district suggest Carol Cafiero, the person that administrates the laptop program, "may be a voyeur" who might have viewed some of the photos on her home computer.

This is a case of pedophilia, no? I don't understand why this person is still employed. Tying this in with the DOJ issue may seem tangential at best, but it is a harbinger of what privacy issues that come with the further integration of technology in our lives and the government's position in either affirming our rights or trampling them. Because schools receive federal money, they have to operate under the same constraints that governmental organizations do. While there seems to be a loophole, why? I think this kid has a damn good case and I bet he is not the only one.

Understand that every digital bit of communication in this country is monitored. The government has sniffing facilities in the three major telecoms offices that mirror all internet and voice communications through NSA equipment that filters messages and sends "suspicious" messages to listening posts where they are analysed. Look up ECHELON or Room 641A, if you doubt me. Also, this isn't snooping foreign Al Qaeda operatives, it's us. Somewhere, sometime, we have to draw the line.

Thank you for reading this blog.

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