The Justice Department is in a bit of hot water (yet again) today after the news came out that the FBI has been guilty of "serious misuse" of the power to obtain secret information under the Patriot Act. Apparently, the FBI used national security letters in many cases when they should not, and that allowed them to obtain all sorts of information they should not have had. To be honest, I greeted the news of this with something of a yawn. It's really not a surprise. If the government has a tool to get access to data, they will use it, and they will abuse it. It's just how it works if the data is available. It's too tempting not to check it out. However, the one thing this should do is get more people to start talking to their politicians about why the big new governmental push to force ISPs to retain data is a problem. If that data is there, it's going to be too tempting not to go through it -- and people's privacy will be violated. So, the FBI misusing the tools at hand isn't a surprise -- but it should be a reminder about why we don't force companies to retain unnecessary private data.
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