Sunday, July 15, 2007

Recent privacy issue #4

New York City's proposed joining of public and private snooping is, of course, not the first example of such cooperative intrusions, as I've noted before. But the effort keeps expanding, even into areas where the cops, in this case the federal cops, weren't supposed to go. ABC News earlier in the week reported on a
$5 million project [that] would apparently pay private firms to store at least two years' worth of telephone and Internet activity by millions of Americans, few of whom would ever be considered a suspect in any terrorism, intelligence or criminal matter. ...

The FBI is barred by law from collecting and storing such data if it has no connection to a specific investigation or intelligence matter.
The Bureau wants that information available just in case it wants to look at it later. Having failed both to convince the telcoms to keep it voluntarily and to get Congress to pass a law forcing them to do so, it now wants to buy the companies off
by offering to pay millions of dollars to three firms if they will keep the records themselves and allow the FBI instantaneous access to the information if it asks.

"It's a public-private partnership that puts civil liberties to the test," said the ACLU's [Mike] German[, a policy expert on national security and privacy issues].
The three firms, the FBI confirmed in March, are Verizon, MCI and AT&T; in the interim, MCI has merged into Verizon.
The proposed program would apparently build on existing cooperation between the FBI and the phone companies, which has been faulted for violating laws and internal FBI policies.

In March, the Department of Justice's internal watchdog was harshly critical of the FBI's partnership effort with Verizon, MCI and AT&T, because FBI agents appeared to routinely ignore laws and policies when accessing Americans' phone records.

Even the bureau's own top lawyer said she found the unit's behavior "disturbing," noting that when requesting access to phone company records, it repeatedly referenced "emergency" situations that did not exist, falsely claimed grand juries had subpoenaed information and failed to keep records on much of its own activity.
But don't worry, there's no need to worry, you're a law-abiding person, so why worry? Besides, the Supreme Court already said you should know you lost claims to privacy as soon as you let your telcom company know what number you wanted to call or what ISP you wanted to reach. So why are you worried? What are you hiding?

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