Sunday, August 8, 2010

Be careful what you write, the feds may be watching

We all know that whatever we post out there in the aether of cyberspace will be around forever. But now we have an even bigger reason to be careful when we hit the "send" button. The Obama administration is looking to make it that much easier for the FBI to force ISP's to hand over records of your internet activity - all without the requirement of that pesky little warrant.

As it is, the FBI can force an ISP to turn over records of an individual's internet use through the use of a national security letter. An ISP receiving a NSL must provide the FBI with name and address of the account holder, length of service and toll billing records. The letter also requires the ISP to keep the government's request secret. Now los federales are seeking to add electronic communication transactional records to the list of items covered by the NSL.

Proponents of the bill claim that the addition only clarifies the information the FBI is entitled to through use of a national security letter. Only one problem, there is no definition for what an electronic communication transactional record is.

Los federales portray this as akin to the government obtaining the phone records of an individual; but without a definition for what these records are, it seems to me closer to wiretapping. Of course we hear the standard line that the government must have this power because the world is a dangerous place and law enforcement must be able to act quickly to quash terrorist plots on American soil. The only problem is sacrificing liberty in the name of security is a one-way street. Once you've given up your freedom -- you never get it back.

See also:

"The giving ISP: White House wants to ensure quick and easy warrantless FBI snooping" Citizen Media Law Project (Aug. 2, 2010)

No comments: