FBI Snooping Story Should Make Politicians Rethink Data Retention Laws

from the they-will-be-misused dept

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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    I-Saw-It Coming, Mar 9th, 2007 @ 6:42pm

    It was bound to happen eventually.

     

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    Charles Griswold, Mar 9th, 2007 @ 7:55pm

    Government misuse of power

    When I saw the headlines, I was disappointed and angered, but not surprised.

    That's kind of sad when you think about it.

     

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    thinlizzy151, Mar 9th, 2007 @ 9:16pm

    It can happen here

    George Orwell was right, he just confused about the dates. I used to think the Nixon administration was the worst I'd see in my lifetime, but this one makes his look positively beneficent. J. Edgar Hoover must be laughing in his grave.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2007 @ 11:15am

    Kinda missd the point...

    Mike,

    I totally agree with your basic assessment that given access to mor data, law enforcement will use it. However, the solution isn't to compile less information because of the possibility of misuse, the solution is to repeal the current paradigm punctuated by the Patriot Act (and others) that gives law enforcement access to information without some of the old evidentiary requirements that stopped these abuses. Also, I don't really have a problem with law enforcement looking at more and more varied data than they currently have, but there should be much more transparancy in the process to allow for better scrutiny and oversight (except for extreme case where data and access to it needs to be classified for specific national security concerns, not just because it is embarasing).

    So basically I am saying that more information can be a valuable tool to help fight real criminal offenses, but the access to that information needs to be gated by consistent and constitutionally appropriate safeguards as well as greater transparency as to when data is accessed, to facilitate oversight. The unfortunate long term side effect of 9/11 is that government has been given a blank check to side-step procedures in the name of responding to threats, and that isn't a completely horrible thing, but now it is time to take the blank check back and put procedures in place that are less beurocratically prohibitive (so law enforcement can act with appropriate speed), but don't sacrifice our privacy unnecessarily.

     

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    Frink, Mar 10th, 2007 @ 9:23pm

    Who's watching.....

    It's too late to try to get any control over the US government and its policies concerning domestic spying. They can't be happy as long as there may be something they don't have in a data base. It can only get worse. There will always be the question - Who's watching the people who are watching the people? It just goes on and on and on.

     

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    a, Mar 12th, 2007 @ 12:30pm

    So the Govt. should have less info than we give Go

    Get real, the FBI broke the law and the proper authorities pointed this out. The system actually worked.

     

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