Verizon Says It Has A First Amendment Right To Illegally Give Your Call Records To The Government

from the that's-an-interesting-way-to-look-at-things dept

The nation's biggest telcos are working hard to make the lawsuits against them for passing customer call records and other info to the government as part of its program of warrantless wiretaps disappear. AT&T's argument that it was just following government orders didn't wash with a judge, and now Verizon is claiming that its passing of information to the government is protected by the First Amendment. Yes, you read that correctly: it says the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is unconstitutional, and the information it passed to the government -- in apparent violation of it, and to comply with the sort of warrantless surveillance the ECPA was designed to prevent -- is constitutionally protected free speech. This seems tenuous at best, but it fits with Verizon's MO. The company always tries to whitewash its customer data leaks by filing lawsuits and trying to shift the blame onto pretexters and information brokers, and making the problem appear to be solely these people's activities, rather than its own inability to protect customer data. Likewise in this case, it contends that it's done nothing wrong, and that the ECPA makes the mistake of trying to prevent free speech, rather than putting restrictions on the government's ability to ask for the information. Of course, those restrictions exist (in the form of having to get a warrant), but didn't really work so well here. Verizon's complicity seems pretty obvious and its free-speech claims look like little more than a hail-mary attempt to shirk liability for disclosing the customer information. That may not be necessary, though, if the Bush administration's attempts to get Congress to pass a law giving the telcos immunity from these sorts of lawsuits are successful.

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  1. identicon
    reed, 7 May 2007 @ 10:59am

    Uhh-huh

    "How much more would they be hated if we found out that they were providing a safe haven for the bad guys and did nothing about it?"

    No doubt! We provide roads which criminals use everyday to kidnap, rob, murder, and many other illegal activities. If we just had road blocks all over every major city we could turn this tide and fight back against all those criminals.

    The American dollar is also used for millions of illegal transactions every single day (Think of all those drug dealers). If we just stopped everyone on foot and checked their financial history to make sure they don't have money they shouldn't we could ferret out all these drug dealers.

    Computers are used by mobsters and con artists everyday to rip off the American people and possibly fund terrorism. If we only had a license for computer use we could regulate it and keep all these bad people from using computers.

    I could on with this logic and if we followed it we could all enjoy our new found governmental protection!

    "Are we willing to lose a few thousand civilians and billions in infrastructure and buildings/equipment as a price for ultimate freedom?"

    Exactly, freedom is just a airy concept as our President has made very clear. Freedom must be carefully balanced with spying, investigations, and the governments ultimate authority to take your freedom away in order to protect all of us.

    "I am a bit of a fence sitter on this one. "

    Sounds like you enjoy sitting on a fence. Just remember the don't ask don't tell policy, just another way to protect your freedom

    "I hate giving up freedom, but if it only means that people know that I call my mom on mother's day I can deal with that."

    If you have nothing to hide, why not give up all your freedom. You apparently don't need it! Just head down to your local hospital and get the government approved tracking chip inserted into your brain so we can be sure your really not a terrorist in disguise.

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