Internet Privacy? Not If the Government Has Its Way

The Senate will consider a new bill that threatens Internet privacy rights on Thursday, November 29, reports Yahoo and CNET. If the bill passes, government agencies will no longer need a warrant to have total access to citizens’ email accounts and other forms of electronic communication.

Thus far, the bill has not received too much attention, in part because it has played out as a bit of a bait and switch. Initially, the bill was written explicitly to strengthen email privacy by necessitating that police have probable cause and a search warrant to access citizens’ email. However, law enforcement agencies objected to the content of the bill and it was consequently postponed from its initial review date in September.

In the interim, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has rewritten and completely overhauled the bill. The potential legislation would now counter its original intent and give the government unprecedented access to private Internet accounts.

Government agents would no longer need a judge to approve searches of private Internet content. This legislation would not only apply to emails. Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, and just about any form of electronic messaging, would also be subject to Big Brother’s watchful eye.

If the bill passes, over 22 government agencies would achieve easy access to American’s Internet accounts, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Postal Regulatory Commission. State and local police would be granted similar advantages.

One provision even stipulates that if service providers such as Google, Facebook, or Twitter want to inform specific users that law enforcement is monitoring their content, they must first tell the agencies that they intend to do so. Internet users will not be notified for about two weeks after it occurs, although agencies can delay the report from being released for as much as a year. In other words, the government expects a little privacy while invading the privacy of its citizens.

Another provision states that all existing laws and practices can essentially be ignored if enforcement agencies feel the situation is an “emergency.”

Critics of the bill find it alarming that a bill designed to protect privacy is now promoting the precise opposite. “There is no good legal reason why federal regulatory agencies such as the NLRB, OSHA, SEC, or FTC need to access customer information with a mere subpoena,” argues Markham Erickson, a Washington D.C. attorney.


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Photo: thinkstock

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Ken G.
Ken G.2 years ago

It may interest you Americans to learn that you have been spying on the UK public in every possible way since 1954 from your base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. The spying extends to the whole of Europe, and one use of the spying is to gain an economic advantage for business. The UK government has connived in this, without any reference to Parliament. The British public has no rights when it comes to the really important decisions, such as starting an aggressive war, as in Iraq, or allowing foreign powers such as the US, spying rights over our citizens. The 'democratic' world allows decision-making mainly by politicians, unelected on the issues involved, so it becomes difficult to extend real democracy worldwide, e.g. difficult to reverse China's restriction of freedom of communication on the internet. You can see the Menwith Hill information in a 'dropbox' link on Twitter @DOSKA CHESS.

Stella Gamboni
Stella Gamboni2 years ago

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

--- Benjamin Franklin

Lisa A.
Lisa A.2 years ago

I agree with JACarlton A. - All U.S. citizens homeland and abroad have been watched for decades- probably even more so since the Patriot Act. Every Google search is documented for example. As JACarlton A said, Big Brother is "....just making less bones about it being public knowledge now."

Nils Lunde


Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon3 years ago

I tend to agree that we probably haven't had the privacy we'd like to think we've been enjoying over the years. Which is why we should be careful what we type on public forums and emails too.

Mary B.
Mary B.3 years ago

Since when is the Federal Reserve a government agency? Something seems a bit off with this whole thing, as in, maybe it's just another 'lets get people riled up and deflect their attention.'

Karen Howard
Karen H.3 years ago

Does this mean we get to read the private emails of our elected officials?
How would they like that?

Anne Thorsen
Past Member 3 years ago

Scary business!!!...

Kimberly S.
Kimberly S.3 years ago

Scary and troubling.

Talya Honor
Tal H.3 years ago

Glad i dont live in America!