Internet Privacy? Not if Government Has Its Way

Search form

Internet Privacy? Not if Government Has Its Way

Internet Privacy? Not if Government Has Its Way
Wed, 11/28/2012 - by Kevin Mathews
This article originally appeared on Care2

On November 29, the Senate will consider a new bill that threatens Internet privacy rights. If it passes, government agencies will no longer need a warrant to have total access to email accounts and other forms of electronic communication.

Thus far, the bill has not received too much attention, in part because it has played out as a bit of a bait and switch. Initially, the legislation was written explicitly to strengthen email privacy by necessitating that police have probable cause and a search warrant to access citizens’ email. However, law enforcement agencies objected to the content of the bill and it was consequently postponed from its initial review date in September.

In the interim, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has rewritten and completely overhauled the bill. The potential legislation would now counter its original intent and give the government unprecedented access to private Internet accounts.

Government agents would no longer need a judge to approve searches of private Internet content. This legislation would not only apply to emails: Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, and just about any form of electronic messaging would also be subject to Big Brother’s watchful eye.

If the bill passes, two dozen government agencies - including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Labor Relations Board and the Postal Regulatory Commission - would achieve easy access to America’s Internet accounts. State and local police would be granted similar advantages.

One provision even stipulates that if service providers such as Google, Facebook or Twitter want to inform specific users that law enforcement is monitoring their content, they must first tell the agencies that they intend to do so. Internet users will not be notified for about two weeks after it occurs, although agencies can delay the report from being released for as long as a year. In other words, the government expects a little privacy while invading the privacy of its citizens.

Another provision states that all existing laws and practices can essentially be ignored if enforcement agencies feel the situation is an “emergency.”

Critics of the bill find it alarming that a bill designed to protect privacy is now promoting the precise opposite. “There is no good legal reason why federal regulatory agencies such as the NLRB, OSHA, SEC or FTC need to access customer information with a mere subpoena,” argues Markham Erickson, a Washington D.C. attorney.

Article Tabs

Marches around the country last week showed diversity among a new and growing cohort of activists taking climate justice to new levels of resistance.

Riot police withdrew Monday morning after failing to rein in mass crowds – and a wave of civil disobedience led by students – demanding open elections without Beijing's interference.

Fueled by a credit binge in Asia that's pushed global private and public debt to new highs, the “poisonous combination” of spiraling debts and low growth could trigger another crisis.

People who purchase occupied properties will evict current residents starting a cycle of blight and displacement that will cost individuals, owners, the community and the city in the long run.

Born and raised on the North Side of St. Louis, Mo., 24-year-old rapper Prince Ea has a sound unlike most artists coming out of the Midwest.

Americans need to say no now to this new scheme, lest we allow the past mortgage crisis to become a current rent fiasco.

Posted 5 days 19 hours ago

KathyJo Torrenga and her husband decided to challenge their foreclosure on their own, learning as much as they could about mortgage securitization and the damages caused by it.

Posted 4 days 1 hour ago

2014 is on pace to be the Year of Dark Money.

Posted 4 days 1 hour ago

A publicly-owned bank could help Scotland take control of its own economic destiny by avoiding unnecessary debt to a private banking system that's become a burden to the economy.

Posted 4 days 1 hour ago

This Acronym TV report from the Flood Wall Street day of action features exclusive footage, analysis and interviews with people at the heart of the movement.

Posted 4 days 1 hour ago

Corporations would like activists and others to remain in the dark about the extent to which they are keeping tabs on their opponents and critics, but there are cracks in the wall.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled in the U.S. since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and more than half in areas experiencing drought.

After the tornado, OpOK Relief has stepped in to fill the gaps as part of the People's Response.

Sitthixay Ditthavong Photo2: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, right, tells reporters at a news conference outside the union's headquarters that the city's 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday.

The Chicago teachers' strike is on, and it's a worthy battle in the war on the poor.

New York Town is Sued for Banning Fracking Discussion

Environmental groups claim the town of Sanford, N.Y., violated residents' free speech rights by banning talk of natural gas drilling at town meetings.

Sign Up