Monday, August 19, 2013

'Going Dark': What's So Wrong with the Government's Plan to Tap Our Internet?


We know it's open season on our data. Simply by examining your online interactions, your trades of email or gender in exchange for access, it’s not that difficult for big companies, government agencies or unscrupulous persons to establish a profile of who you are—political affiliations, religious beliefs, relationships, consumer habits, job history, schools you attended, locations you frequent, and in some cases, even your home address. It's not dead, but privacy will never be the same. 

Still, the various systems that coax intimate details of your life from your data haven't made it dramatically easier for the government to listen into your online communications. That's because getting a warrant for a user's information and requesting the data from the companies that have it—the Facebooks and the Googles and the Apples and the Microsofts—can take months. By the time the "tap" is in place, those companies may have disposed of it, or the suspect may have moved on.

What the government needs, it argues, is easier access to your inbox, your chats, even your gaming data—and in real-time. According to the top lawyer at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, being able to wiretap all forms of Internet communication and cloud storage nearly instantaneously is, the agency's “top priority.” At a forum at the American Bar Association in Washington, DC, last month, Andrew Weissman, FBI general counsel, said that people who are “up to no good” take advantage of online communication to hide evidence of their criminal actions, but that the Bureau simply can't keep up. Think about the terrorists, Weissman warned. “This huge legal apparatus that many of you know about to prevent crimes, to prevent terrorist attacks is becoming increasingly hampered.”

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