The Government’s Digital Dragnet

July 26, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

“Will government surveillance finally become a political issue for middle-class Americans?” asks a recent article from Ars Technica.

The article notes that sources of entertainment commonly portray the use of technical wizardry to spy on the unsuspecting and that we know the government has used warrantless wiretaps in the past—ostensibly on terrorists. But it uses a collection of requests for information made to wireless carriers as a springboard to question just how far the government has gone. “It’s now clear that government surveillance is so widespread that the chances of the average, innocent person being swept up in an electronic dragnet are much higher than previously appreciated,” the Ars article contends. And, it asserts, that revelation should lead to long overdue legal reforms.

“Up to now,” the article reports, “persistent lobbying from the Justice Department and a lack of outcry from the public have left Congress with little incentive to act.” There has been some recent activity (the article specifically mentions the “GPS Act”—S.1212 in the Senate and H.R.2168 in the House—which would require that government agents get a warrant from a judge in order to track people using their mobile phones), but our laws are woefully behind our technology.

Contact your representatives in Washington and ask what they’re doing to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Ask what else they’re doing to ensure that your rights as a citizen are being upheld in the digital age. And if they’re not doing enough, let them know that there might be someone else out there who will get the job done!

 

** UPDATE **

DSLReports discusses how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to citizens’ digital privacy. Sadly, “the FTC has a lot of people in place who profess a great interest in consumer privacy (like FTC boss Jon Leibowitz), but…those individuals are hamstrung and limited by funding and equipment.” And we all know who controls the purse strings of the federal government, don’t we? Here’s yet another opportunity to express your opinion to your representatives and work to secure regulations and funding that will help the people who want to help you to do just that!

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