Monday, August 20, 2007

Beyond E-mail Surveillance

As mentioned here previously, recent acts by the US Congress permit government monitoring of e-mails, chat, VOIP telephone calls, and other electronic communications that are sent from the US to any foreign destinations. Further developments on domestic spying by the US government on US citizens was noted earlier today by Democracy Now:
Congressional Democrats are acknowledging President Bush’s broad new spying powers approved this month could be even more extensive than initially claimed. Ambiguous language defining “electronic surveillance” means the so-called Protect America of 2007 Act could go well beyond wiretapping to permit physical searches and financial record-gathering -- all without court approval. The admission comes amidst news the Bush administration has privately said it won’t be held to those limits the legislation does set on surveillance activities. The New York Times reports Justice Department officials refused repeated entreaties to commit to following Congressional rules at a private meeting last week. Participants in the meeting say assistant attorney general for national security Ken Wainstein told former Justice Department lawyer Bruce Fein the administration does not consider itself bound by Congressional restrictions.
My understanding of this matter is that the government can now enter your home to take computers and physical documents—without a court order. Beyond the legislation itself, Bush administration officials have stated that they will ignore legislation, proceeding with domestic spying as they so please.

Tracking public policy issues related to electronic surveillance matters is conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, among others.

Here's an NPR story on how the US government will be using satellites to spy on Americans at home. You thought that backyard barbecue was just a simple affair? Smile, you're on candid camera.

Spying by "the government" is increasingly contracted out to private business firms, now expanded to the tune of a billion dollars. What data are they collecting, who sees it, and what are they doing with it? Check The Spy Who Billed Me blog for further information.

In other related news, the FTC will hold a town hall meeting on the matter of "behavioral advertising" where web search engines record and store web searches by individuals ostensibly for marketing purposes.

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