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Government Privacy Communications United States Your Rights Online

Senate Bill Rewrite Lets Feds Read Your E-mail Without Warrants 403

Posted by timothy
from the as-if-they-wouldn't-otherwise dept.
concealment writes "A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law. [Sen. Patrick] Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge."
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Senate Bill Rewrite Lets Feds Read Your E-mail Without Warrants

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  • by Tmann72 (2473512) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:15AM (#42040399)
    Considering it specifically calls it a Bill in the headline this seems to be one of those situations where anyone with knowledge of how the system works would automatically understand what you said anyway. Otherwise, even without your additions the argument wasn't really enhanced in any real way. The privacy problem is still very real, and the legislation should be stopped immediately. The fact that this is "only" at the bill stage doesn't diminish the realities of the privacy violations here. Aside from the fact that this likely is unconstitutional as a violation of the 4th amendment. However, to be fair, we need to update the fourth amendment. It currently reads "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." We need to expand on this to account not just for papers, but to digital documentation.
  • Yuck (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cornwallis (1188489) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:17AM (#42040417)

    Since I live in Vermont I figured I'd call his office - and was passed along to the Judiciary Committee - where I got the [what sounded like every other] usual dissembling response. ("The Senator is very concerned about privacy..."). I'm afraid unless EFF and others get involved very publicly this is a fait accompli.

    When SOPA was floating around I called and was told by a (what sounded like a 20-something year-old) staffer "You don't know what you're talking about at all" - exact words - so I'm not holding out much hope!

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:03AM (#42041197) Homepage

    Really, cause I recall how during the passage of Obamacare, Congressman received more opposing calls, emails, etc than ever before. In fact, they may have received more than every before combined.

    A difference it did not make.

    Same with SOPA/PIPA, no effect. Until Google, Wikipedia, Amazon and others hinted they could drop off the web in protest. And the politicians realized such would lead to incumbent losses.

    Seriously, look at California's GMO bill. Which was apparently polling around 80% and then amazingly lost.....really. I mean, who doesn't want to know what they're eating?

    It's a game, and most of us are too stupid to realize we are being played.

  • by Hellburner (127182) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:10AM (#42041321)

    This caused me to login and post for the first time in a long while.

    Just spoke to one of Senator Snowe's assistants in the DC office. The assistant was not familiar with HR 2471. I asked that the Senator oppose such legislation. Senator Collins' office in DC only gave me a voicemail...

    Called Senator Sanders' office in DC, since Sanders seems to actually understand little things like the Constitution. Sanders' assistant seemed to think that warrantless access was already the norm.

    Apparently I woke up in Russia this morning...

    Will contact Leahy's office soon. A little less time with Batman movies, Senator Leahy, a little more time guarding the rights of the citizenry.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:14AM (#42041369)

    You're gonna have to rewrite your national anthem at this rate

    Home of the brave - Nope. You have a whole agency called TSA which I assume stands for The Scared Americans

    And what with this lot you can hardly be called the land of the free

    They're the Terrorists' Surrogate Army.

    Because they won and we're now an occupied country. And we even supplied the occupation troops for them.

  • Re:Reality (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:14AM (#42041381) Homepage

    Agreed.

    But that's not the problem either - information you put into the public domain stays there. Information you give to companies will be available from within those companies to the people who are given access. Breaches of that trust are data-protection issues which we also have laws against.

    Cases in point: In the UK, we've had things like NHS staff look up celebrity medical records and publish bits online. Their actions were logged, they were charged, they were sacked. It was illegal.

    It's not a case of what happens that's already illegal, it's a case of what is currently ILLEGAL that you're going to make LEGAL (which is almost always the only interesting part of any legislative bill in any country). That would include the ability for a handful of government departments (some with zero need of it) to LEGALLY just read your email on a whim and never explain their actions. We wouldn't know because there would be no judicial oversight.

    We've had cases in the UK where councils given similar powers would do things like investigate people's shopping habits to see if they were the ones who'd thrown the wrong recycling into the wrong recycling bin. Had them literally park CCTV vans across the road to watch it happen because of data gleaned from these "innocent", uncontrolled sources.

    If a private email of mine leaks, it's either from the person I sent it to or the mailservers along the way. It doesn't take much to trace those kinds of things and the police will do it because it would be against the law for someone in Google to publish my private email without my permission.

    But this would allow, for example, a government department employee to read my email and show all his mates in the office, and maybe use it against me when I go to a government office requiring some random service. Nobody would ever know unless it came to light in some other way. It might be a breach of workplace policy but his actions would be entirely LEGAL, and by its very definition it would override or conflict with data protection laws.

    Read this change in the law as nothing more than "we don't want to have to tell a judge why we want to read your email", which sounds infinitely more sinister and should worry you more than anything else. There's no legitimate reason that such requests can't already be done WITH judicial oversight. And if they were clogging up court systems with them, it would be the JUDGES complaining about their use.

    This is just a way to side-step a legal system as if it were a hurdle, by making the act you want to perform legal even if it goes against several other laws and would be put down by a judge in a second.

  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:23AM (#42041541)
    The vote counts mean nothing other than that you don't understand how our government works. The 2 party leaders work out a deal before the vote... they already know how it's going to go. Then they pick people from their side to vote for/against it in such a way that their votes will maximize their chances of re-election. The leaders may not have enough votes on their side, in which case they have to renegotiate the bill. "Ok, I have 3 against that I need you guys to cover, so I'll throw in this tax rate increase..." Even bills they plan to have NOT PASS go through this process. One party introduces something they know can't pass and the other party votes against it... "Look! I voted against and stopped that awful bill!" It's all a show, and you're falling for it.
  • Re:Yay! Democrats! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:24AM (#42041569) Journal

    You see a direct attack on the Fourth Amendment, and the best you can come up with is, "ha ha, it was your side that did it, not mine." Do you listen to yourself or are everyone's civil rights just another baseball game to you?

    Maybe it's because when Bush was president and something like this is proposed, we heard repeatedly how evil Bush was. Now that Obama is president and this is a bill by a Democrat introduced into a Democrat led Senate, all we hear is that both parties are the same.

    Maybe everyone should go back and look at the vote they cast a couple of weeks ago and wonder if they made the right decision. What's the old saying about power corrupting?

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