Monday, September 24, 2007

Privacy Vs Security

Over at Donklephant Justin Gardner has had some rather interesting posts regarding privacy abuses under current US Anti-Terrorism laws. I'm practically Libertarian about privacy. Largely I think that stems from growing up in the middle of nowhere with so much privacy that we could have sun bathed naked on the front lawn and nobody would have known coupled with the fact that I'm an only child. I'm just used to more privacy than most Americans. On that note it was largely The Patriot Act and the ease with which it could be abused that started me down the path to become a blogger. Since the Patriot Act it's only gotten worse. Take for example this article from the WaPo:

The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.

The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country. Officials say the records, which are analyzed by the department’s Automated Targeting System, help border officials distinguish potential terrorists from innocent people entering the country.

But new details about the information being retained suggest that the government is monitoring the personal habits of travelers more closely than it has previously acknowledged. The details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of official records on their own travel. Those records included a description of a book on marijuana that one of them carried and small flashlights bearing the symbol of a marijuana leaf....

The DHS database generally includes "passenger name record" (PNR) information, as well as notes taken during secondary screenings of travelers. PNR data -- often provided to airlines and other companies when reservations are made -- routinely include names, addresses and credit-card information, as well as telephone and e-mail contact details, itineraries, hotel and rental car reservations, and even the type of bed requested in a hotel.

The records the Identity Project obtained confirmed that the government is receiving data directly from commercial reservation systems, such as Galileo and Sabre, but also showed that the data, in some cases, are more detailed than the information to which the airlines have access.
Now combine that with this short list of abuses of current anti-terrorism law:
  • FBI apologizes to lawyer held in Madrid bombings: Link
  • Homeland Security saves America by busting a toy store owner for legally selling a Rubik’s Cube knockoff: Link
  • FBI invokes Patriot Act for Criminal Copyright Infringement: Link
  • Though warned in 2001 to use this power sparingly, FBI agents issued more than 47,000 National Security Letters in 2005, more than half of which targeted Americans: Link
  • Drug-tunnel bust aided by controversial provision of USA Patriot Act: Link
  • FBI Improperly Used Patriot Act to Gain Information on Citizens, Justice Department Says: Link
  • Search Records Requests under Patriot Act Ruled Unconstitutional: Link
  • Police invoked the Patriot Act when surreptitiously entering and searching a home or office without notifying the owner 108 times during a 22-month period, according to a one-page summary released by the Justice Department: Link
  • Police Log Confirms FBI Role In Arrests of anti-War Protesters: Link
  • Patriot Act smackdown: Librarians 1, FBI 0: Link
  • FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations: Link
  • After 9/11: The War on Immigrants: Link
  • Patriot Act report documents civil rights complaints:
  • ACLU, Muslims sue FBI over mosque surveillance: Link
  • Patriot Act used to round up “eco-terrorists.”: Link
Now stop and think of everything you've ever said via phone, IM, and email that you'd prefer to remain just between you and its intended recipient. Because if we don't draw the line soon, given the current march of technological innovation, eventually every argument with a girlfriend, every reaction to news of the death of a loved one, every remembrance of "how good last night was" will be on file somewhere. Now what bureaucrat do you trust with that?