The We the People petition to reform the ECPA in order to give email the same Fourth Amendment protection that snail mail enjoys narrowly passed the 100K signature threshold needed to (theoretically) prompt a response from the administration.
The last-minute push to hit the mark was impressive. Reminded by the post here yesterday that I hadn't actually signed the petition yet, I went and remedied that around 5 pm (CST) yesterday evening. At that point, it looked as though the petition would be an also-ran, having only gathered about 78,000 signatures with just a few hours remaining.
One would hope this one does prompt a serious response. The only reason this law hasn't been updated is because treating email 180 days old or older as "abandoned" cuts down on the requirements law enforcement and investigative agencies need to meet to access it. These entities obviously benefit heavily from the clearly outdated law and have no interest in seeing this convenient loophole in Fourth Amendment protection closed. The administration has long defended our nation's intelligence and investigative agencies, so it may have little interest in making their jobs "harder." On the other hand, this support has seen a marked decline over the past few weeks, and there are indications that some in the White House really do want to fix this, so there may be some hope yet.
On the plus side, The Hill reports that the DOJ has already weighed in on this topic.
At a House hearing in March, Elana Tyrangiel, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, agreed that updating ECPA has "considerable merit."
"We agree, for example, that there is no principled basis to treat email less than 180 days old differently than email more than 180 days old," she said "Similarly, it makes sense that the statute not accord lesser protection to opened emails than it gives to emails that are unopened."
This step in the right direction was unfortunately tempered by a massive step backward.
But she urged lawmakers to exempt civil regulatory investigations from the warrant requirement. She explained that regulators investigate conduct that is unlawful, but not necessarily criminal. She argued that because regulators often do not have access to the warrant power, the requirement would impede critical government investigations.
This "exemption" basically defeats the entire purpose of ECPA reform, and in some ways, makes things worse. It takes a little loophole in the law, which came about because of changes in technology, then widens it and puts a giant stamp of approval on it. It goes from a little loophole that violates the 4th Amendment to a big official law that violates the 4th Amendment.
On top of that, frankly, I'm of the opinion that government investigations could use a few more impediments. And it's not as if regulators can't compel production of email through subpoenas. Just because they're not pursuing criminal charges doesn't mean they're completely out of options. When you're looking to close a loophole, it's hardly beneficial to create a giant open door in its place. Civil regulatory agencies should treat the email it seeks like it does any other document. If it can't just seize these because an arbitrary amount of time has passed, then it shouldn't be able to do so with email. The rules need to be standardized, not undermined by exceptions and justifications.
We've written a few times recently about the importance of ECPA reform, to bring a woefully out of date law into the 21st century. Specifically, we've urged people to sign this White House petition in favor of ECPA reform. That petition closes soon, and it's still a bit short of the 100,00 goal.
Why is this important to you? Because, without it, it's much easier for the government to snoop on your emails without a warrant. What people want is for emails and regular mail to be treated the same, which is simply not the case today.
While this is a separate issue from the NSA stuff, it does matter quite a bit, and this is a chance for there to be a real win that helps protect your privacy. Fighting against this proposal are a variety of government agencies, led by the IRS and the SEC, which have made good use of this loophole to read emails without getting a warrant. This is not what the law was intended for at all. It's a loophole based on the outdated law, which was written in 1986, before anyone could comprehend things like web-based email. The IRS and SEC like having this loophole, and they don't want it to go away. In fact, they want it to be made explicit, rather than an accidental loophole of history. That should be a massive affront to folks who believe in the 4th Amendment and the basic concept that a search should require a warrant based upon probable cause.
I know that many people have dismissed the whole concept of White House petitions, and take a rather cynical view of the whole thing. That's a very dangerous approach here, only helping to further the problems:
Yes, it's true that the White House has ignored certain petitions in the past. It's also true that there are certain issues where the White House doesn't really seem to care what people have to say, it's made up its mind.
But, that is not always the case, and the White House has used these petitions to take strong positions in the past -- including on things like SOPA and mobile phone unlocking. When accompanied by a strong campaign beyond just the petition, the White House seems open to taking certain issues more seriously. This is one of those.
By all indications, there are some in the White House who agree that ECPA is out of date and needs to be fixed. There appears to be an internal debate about where the official White House position will be -- whether it's siding with the IRS and SEC -- or with the 4th Amendment rights of the public. Having a ton of signatures from the American public on their side will absolutely help those in the White House who support real and meaningful ECPA reform push back against the agencies.
This isn't an empty gesture. There are bills in the House and Senate to fix ECPA, close the loopholes and protect your 4th Amendment rights. Getting White House support could finally push those bills over the edge and make them law.
Sticking with the cynical approach and refusing to sign guarantees failure. Not signing works to the advantage of the IRS and SEC and others who like using this loophole. Even if you're cynical about this, signing the petition at least gives it a chance to influence the debate.
And, yes, I know that outside of the general debate over ECPA, people will look at the NSA situation and argue that it doesn't really matter what the law says. That's not true. Yes, the NSA issue is a big one that needs to be dealt with, but this is about a loophole that goes way beyond the NSA, and is used and abused by different government and law enforcement agencies. Here's a real chance to push back on that and to score a real victory for privacy. Letting cynicism and apathy dictate your move here guarantees that the forces pushing against your 4th Amendment rights win. So take a chance and sign the petition.
We've talked a lot about ECPA reform -- which is the incredibly outdated "electronic communications privacy act" which actually makes sure that you have less privacy than other forms of communication. This isn't necessarily on purpose, but because the law was written in the mid-1980s when email itself was a relatively new concept. It includes some bizarre distinctions between opened and unopened emails and if a message has been "left on a server" for more than 180 days (at which point it's considered "abandoned" and not subject to a warrant). Obviously it never anticipated the kind of internet we have today. It also goes against basic 4th Amendment principles and treats electronic messages differently from physical messages.
There actually is a fair bit of support in both Congress and the White House to fix this... if we can get enough public support behind it, which includes getting more people to sign this petition. As with SOPA, there's a strong suggestion that if this petition tips the scales at 100,000, we can get the White House to come out in favor of ECPA reform.
What's standing in the way? Well, a bunch of government agencies, honestly. There are the obvious ones like the DOJ and DHS. That's to be expected. They always want to make it easier to snoop through emails and written communications. But apparently some of the strongest voices trying to block ECPA reform within the government are coming from the SEC and the IRS, because they too see plenty of advantages in trying to snoop through emails without having to take the trouble of getting a warrant.
As I write this, I'm participating in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Chris Calabrese from the ACLU, Mark Stanley from the Center for Democracy and Technology and Julian Sanchez from the Cato Institute. This coincides with a day of action involving a bunch of companies and organizations trying to get more people to speak out on the importance of ECPA reform. And, finally, the folks at TechFreedom have put together a great infographic, which we've also embedded below.
While there's been so much attention lately on the NSA's surveillance tactics and its legality, for years there's been a separate issue that we've been covering: the outdated ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) rules (written in the '80s) that cover law enforcement's ability to get access to your data, such as emails. The laws make almost no sense today, as they were written in a time when the internet was much more limited. The idea of everyone storing pretty much all of their information and communications online wasn't even a concept at the time -- and that creates bizarre and nonsensical rules, like arguing that emails that have been on a server for more than 180 days are considered "abandoned" and no warrant is needed to view them.
There's a simple way to fix all this: reform ECPA to protect private data and say that law enforcement needs to get a warrant to view that information. This is not a difficult requirement, and yet law enforcement has been fighting hard against it for quite some time. Back in September, we noted that if Congress really wants to protect online privacy, beyond just the NSA stuff a good first start would be comprehensive ECPA reform.
Americans are deeply concerned about NSA surveillance.
But the NSA’s not the only problem. An outdated law says the IRS and hundreds of other agencies can read our communications without a warrant.
That law, known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), was written over 25 years ago, before the services we use today even existed.
Right now, several bills in Congress would fix this by updating ECPA to require a warrant, but regulatory bodies are blocking reform in order to gain new powers of warrantless access.
We call on the Obama Administration to support ECPA reform and to reject any special rules that would force online service providers to disclose our email without a warrant.
While many are (perhaps reasonably) skeptical about the "We the People" petitions, they have been shown to be effective tools in getting the White House to take a position on important issues. And, while the DOJ is against this kind of ECPA reform, that's not to say that others in the White House couldn't be convinced to go the other way if they really believe there are enough people in support of such a program. So, check out the petition and let the White House know that it should fix the law so that if law enforcement wants your data, it needs to get a warrant.
Given everything that's been going on with the stories of NSA surveillance lately, it's more clear than ever that our electronic privacy laws are broken. For many years, we've written about the drastic need for ECPA reform. ECPA is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was passed in 1986. As you can imagine, it's exceptionally outdated and convoluted (such as claiming that any emails on a server for more than 180 days should be considered "abandoned" and available for law enforcement to read -- a concept that makes no sense in an era of hosted email with tremendous storage). ECPA is regularly abused by law enforcement agencies seeking information on Americans. This goes well beyond what the NSA is doing in many ways. There's been support in Congress in the past for ECPA reform, but it's never quite made it.
A large group of organizations and companies -- including us at Floor64/Techdirt, along with (among others) EFF, Center for Democracy and Technology, Free Press, Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, ACLU, Engine Advocacy, CCIA, American Library Association, reddit, DuckDuckGo and more -- have teamed up to create VanishingRights.com, to push for a much needed update to ECPA's outdated rules. Instead, we'd like to see a return to basic 4th Amendment ideas like requiring a warrant to search for info. Sounds crazy, I know, but we're in an age where we actually have to tell Congress that it's time to respect the Constitution, because they seem to forget about it all too often.
The latest proposal to support ECPA reform, called the Email Privacy Act, or HR 1852, was introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder and has 137 co-sponsors -- so it has significant support in Congress. But it needs more support if it's actually going to pass in this do-nothing Congress that we have.
Please check out the site, where you can let your elected officials that ECPA needs to be reformed, and that it should respect the basic tenets of the 4th Amendment. You can also read more about ECPA, why it's broken, and what it means for your privacy.
The ACLU has continued its campaign to explore whether or not the government gets a warrant before scouring your email. Last month, they discovered that the IRS doesn't believe in getting a warrant -- leading to the IRS promising to change that policy. Now they've received some documents from the FBI in response to a FOIA request that again suggest that, despite the ruling in US v. Warshak, in which the 6th Circuit said that a warrant is needed to compel an ISP to turn over emails, the FBI believes it can access emails older than 180 days without a warrant, under ECPA. As we've discussed at length, ECPA (the Electronic Communications Privacy Act) is a very outdated piece of legislation which considers emails on a server over 180 days to be "abandoned" because no one considered a cloud computing future.
What the ACLU found in these documents is that the FBI hasn't updated its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) in response to the Warshak ruling, and it still suggests that agents can easily access such emails without a warrant. Instead, it says:
In enacting the ECPA, Congress concluded that customers may not retain a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in information sent to network providers. . . [I]f the contents of an unopened message are kept beyond six months or stored on behalf of the customer after the e-mail has been received or opened, it should be treated the same as a business record in the hands of a third party, such as an accountant or attorney. In that case, the government may subpoena the records from the third party without running afoul of either the Fourth or Fifth Amendment.
That's a... charitable interpretation of reality. That's what Congress felt back then, but based on a very different network setup. However, as the courts noted in Warshak, the 4th Amendment is still important and still rules.
The ACLU also asked different US Attorney's offices for their guidelines, and found that policies differed greatly based on location. Northern Illinois, for example, seemed to recognize the 4th Amendment. But others, including in Texas, still seem to think that no warrant is required. As the ACLU notes, this hodgepodge of rules and the fact that the FBI hasn't changed its guidelines in response to Warshak just highlights the need for comprehensive ECPA reform.
If nothing else, these records show that federal policy around access to the contents of our electronic communications is in a state of chaos. The FBI, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, and DOJ Criminal Division should clarify whether they believe warrants are required across the board when accessing people’s email. It has been clear since 1877 that the government needs a warrant to read letters sent via postal mail. The government should formally amend its policies to require law enforcement agents to obtain warrants when seeking the contents of all emails too.
More importantly, Congress also needs to reform ECPA to make clear that a warrant is required for access to all electronic communications. Reform legislation is making its way through the Senate now, and the documents released by the U.S. Attorney in Illinois illustrate that the law can be fixed without harming law enforcement goals. If you agree that your email and other electronic communications should be private, you can urge Congress to take action here.
Well, that went more smoothly than expected. Today, in a markup for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee very quickly (like 10 minutes after it started) approved an amendment offered by Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee, which would amend the law to make it so that law enforcement needs to get a warrant if it's accessing your email. As we've discussed in the past, the ECPA today is completely outdated, and treats different emails differently -- but a key point is that emails over 180 days old don't require a warrant, just a subpoena, because the law mistakenly judges them to be abandoned. The Amendment was approved by a voice vote, meaning that there was pretty strong support for it. The Leahy-Lee plan is definitely a necessary step in protecting privacy of emails, and while Leahy especially has been pushing it for a while, seeing strong support in the Senate is a good sign for (hopefully) having it become law.
The ACLU filed a freedom of information act (FOIA) request last year, asking for details about whether not IRS investigators get warrants before reading people's private communications. After finally getting 247 pages of records (which don't fully answer the questions asked), the ACLU has noted that the documents suggest that the IRS likely read private emails regularly without obtaining a warrant. In their blog post, they note that in the US v. Warshak case, the 6th Circuit made it clear that the government must get a warrant to turn over emails, and it seems clear that the IRS had to change its policy because of that.
The documents the ACLU obtained make clear that, before Warshak, it was the policy of the IRS to read people’s email without getting a warrant. Not only that, but the IRS believed that the Fourth Amendment did not apply to email at all. A 2009 “Search Warrant Handbook” from the IRS Criminal Tax Division’s Office of Chief Counsel baldly asserts that “the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” Again in 2010, a presentation by the IRS Office of Chief Counsel asserts that the “4th Amendment Does Not Protect Emails Stored on Server” and there is “No Privacy Expectation” in those emails.
Other older documents corroborate that the IRS did not get warrants across the board. For example, the 2009 edition of the Internal Revenue Manual (the official compilation of IRS policies and procedures) explains that “the government may obtain the contents of electronic communication that has been in storage for more than 180 days” without a warrant.
Of course, the IRS is not alone in this. That's the same way other government agencies have treated email thanks to the outdated nature of ECPA, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a law written nearly 30 years ago, which assumed that any content left on a server for over 180 days was "abandoned," because the idea of online messaging systems was foreign to folks in Congress at the time.
The bigger question, though, is whether or not the IRS paid attention to the ruling in Warshak and started getting warrants. As the ACLU notes, while not entirely clear, the answer is likely "no."
Then came Warshak, decided on December 14, 2010. The key question our FOIA request seeks to answer is whether the IRS’s policy changed after Warshak, which should have put the agency on notice that the Fourth Amendment does in fact protect the contents of emails. The first indication of the IRS’s position, from an email exchangein mid-January 2011, does not bode well. In an email titled “US v. Warshak,” an employee of the IRS Criminal Investigation unit asks two lawyers in the IRS Criminal Tax Division whether Warshak will have any effect on the IRS’s work. A Special Counsel in the Criminal Tax Division replies: “I have not heard anything related to this opinion. We have always taken the position that a warrant is necessary when retrieving e-mails that are less than 180 days old.” But that’s just the ECPA standard. The real question is whether the IRS is obtaining warrants for emails more than 180 days old. Shortly after Warshak, apparently it still was not
The IRS had an opportunity to officially reconsider its position when it issued edits to the Internal Revenue Manual in March 2011. But its policy stayed the same: the Manual explained that under ECPA, “Investigators can obtain everything in an account except for unopened e-mail or voice mail stored with a provider for 180 days or less using a [relevant-and-material-standard] court order” instead of a warrant. Again, no suggestion that the Fourth Amendment might require more.
As the ACLU notes, the IRS owes the American public a clear explanation of its view on warrants... and it should put in place a clear warrant requirement before snooping through emails.
As we've covered over and over again, the US government has made it clear that it wants access to your data. With things like the FISA Amendments Act, ECPA and various other laws, law enforcement plays the FUD card repeatedly, insisting that it needs to be able to go in and see data to "protect" the public. There's very little basis to make this claim. And, worse, by decimating online privacy, the US government may actively be driving business outside of the US to foreign countries that have stricter privacy laws that actually protect data from government snooping.
Many foreign companies are converging toward a common argument for why they’re better than their American competitors. It’s not that the foreign-made technology is better, more resilient, or more ubiquitous, nor that the foreign companies are more innovative or better managed. They compare not their businessmen but their politicians. They argue simply that American laws undermine any American product — that these laws fail to protect privacy of personal or business information of all users. This argument works partly because consumers claim to “avoid doing business” with companies they don’t trust to protect their privacy.
Basically, because law enforcement believes it needs to build a much bigger haystack as it searches for needles, we're handing other countries a key selling point in setting up services to compete with US services: "you can't trust any service based in the US, because it's subject to government surveillance." That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I know I've see a number of companies lately who advertise the fact that they're not based in the US to suggest that they're more secure and can keep your data private. This is not the reputation the US needs or wants right now.
My goodness. Yesterday we posted about Rep. Louis Gohmert's incredible, head-shakingly ignorant exchange with lawyer Orin Kerr during a Congressional hearing concerning "hacking" and the CFAA. In that discussion, Gohmert spoke out in favor of being able to "hack back" and destroy the computers of hackers -- and grew indignant at the mere suggestion that this might have unintended consequences or lead people to attack the wrong targets. Gohmert thought that such talk was just Kerr trying to protect hackers.
I thought perhaps Rep. Gohmert was just having a bad day. Maybe he's having a bad month. In a different hearing, held yesterday concerning ECPA reform, Gohmert opened his mouth again, and it was even worse. Much, much worse. Cringe-inducingly clueless. Yell at your screen clueless. Watch for yourself, but be prepared to want to yell.
The short version of this is that he seems to think that when Google has advertisements on Gmail, that's the same thing as selling all of the information in your email to advertisers. And no matter how many times Google's lawyer politely tries to explain the difference, Gohmert doesn't get it. He thinks he's making a point -- smirking the whole time -- that what Google does is somehow the equivalent of government snooping, in that he keeps asking if Google can just "sell" access to everyone's email to the government. I'm going to post a transcript below, and because I simply cannot not interject how ridiculously uninformed Gohmert's line of questioning is, I'm going to interject in the transcript as appropriate.
Rep. Gohmert: I was curious. Doesn't Google sell information acquired from emails to different vendors so that they can target certain individuals with their promotions?
Google lawyer whose name I didn't catch: Uh, no, we don't sell email content. We do have a system -- similar to the system we have for scanning for spam and malware -- that can identify what type of ads are most relevant to serve on email messages. It's an automated process. There's no human interaction. Certainly, the email is not sold to anybody or disclosed.
Gohmert: So how do these other vendors get our emails and think that we may be interested in the products they're selling.
Okay, already we're off to a great start in monumental ignorance. The initial question was based on a complete falsehood -- that Google sells such information -- and after the lawyer told him that this is not true, Gohmert completely ignores that and still asks how they get the emails. It never seems to occur to him that they don't get the emails.
Google lawyer: They don't actually get your email. What they're able to do is through our advertising business be able to identify keywords that they would like to trigger the display of one of their ads, but they don't get information about who the user is or any...
Gohmert: Well that brings me back. So they get information about keywords in our emails that they use to decide who to send promotions to, albeit automatically done. Correct?
NO. Not correct. In fact, that's the exact opposite of what the lawyer just said. Gohmert can't seem to comprehend that Google placing targeted ads next to emails has NOTHING to do with sending any information back to the advertiser. I wonder, when Rep. Gohmert turns on his television to watch the evening news, does he think that the TV station is sending his name, address, channel watching info, etc. back to advertisers? That's not how it works. At all. The advertisers state where they want their ads to appear, and Google's system figures out where to place the ads. At no point does any information from email accounts go back to anyone. And yet Gohmert keeps asking.
And not understanding the rather basic answers. Unfortunately, the lawyer tries to actually explain reality to Gohmert in a professional and detailed manner, when it seems clear that the proper way to answer his questions is in shorter, simpler sentences such as: "No, that's 100% incorrect."
Lawyer: The email context is used to identify what ads are most relevant to the user...
Gohmert: And do they pay for the right or the contractual ability to target those individuals who use those keywords?
Lawyer: I might phrase that slightly differently, but the gist is correct, that advertisers are able to bid for the placement of advertisements to users, where our system has detected might be interested in the advertisement.
Gohmert: Okay, so what would prevent the federal government from making a deal with Google, so they could also "Scroogle" people, and say "I want to know everyone who has ever used the term 'Benghazi'" or "I want everyone who's ever used... a certain term." Would you discriminate against the government, or would you allow the government to know about all emails that included those words?
Okay, try not to hit your head on your desk after that exchange. First, he (perhaps accidentally) gets a statement more or less correct, that advertisers pay to have their ads show up, but immediately follows that up with something completely unrelated to that. First, he tosses in "Scroogled" -- a term that Microsoft uses in its advertising against Gmail and in favor of Outlook.com -- suggesting exactly where this "line" of questioning may have originated. Tip to Microsoft lobbyists, by the way: if you want to put Google on the hot seat, it might help to try a line of questioning that actually makes sense.
Then, the second part, you just have to say huh? The lawyer already explained, repeatedly, that Google doesn't send any information back to the advertiser, and yet he's trying to suggest that the government snooping through your email is the same thing... and Google somehow not giving the government that info is Google "discriminating" against the government? What? Really?
Lawyer [confounded look] Uh... sir, I think those are apples and oranges. I think the disclosure of the identity...
Gohmert: I'm not asking for a fruit comparison. I'm just asking would you be willing to make that deal with the government? The same one you do with private advertisers, so that the government would know which emails are using which words.
Seriously? I recognize that there are no requirements on intelligence to get elected to Congress, but is there anyone who honestly could not comprehend what he meant by saying it's "apples and oranges"? But, clearly he does not understand that because not only does he mock the analogy, he then repeats the same question in which he insists -- despite the multiple explanations that state the exact opposite -- that advertisers get access to emails and information about email users, and that the government should be able to do the same thing.
Lawyer: Thank you, sir. I meant by that, that it isn't the same deal that's being suggested there.
Gohmert: But I'm asking specifically if the same type of deal could be made by the federal government? [some pointless rant about US government videos aired overseas that is completely irrelevant and which it wasn't worth transcribing] But if that same government will spend tens of thousands to do a commercial, they might, under some hare-brained idea like to do a deal to get all the email addresses that use certain words. Couldn't they make that same kind of deal that private advertisers do?
Holy crap. Gohmert, for the fourth time already, nobody gets email addresses. No private business gets the email addresses. No private business gets to see inside of anyone's email. Seeing inside someone's email has nothing to do with buying ads in email. If the government wants to "do the same deal as private advertisers" then yes it can advertise on Gmail... and it still won't get the email addresses or any other information about emailers, because at no point does Google advertising work that way.
Lawyer: We would not honor a request from the government for such a...
Gohmert: So you would discriminate against the government if they tried to do what your private advertisers do?
No. No. No. No. No. The lawyer already told you half a dozen times, no. The government can do exactly what private advertisers do, which is buy ads. And, just like private advertisers, they would get back no email addresses or any such information.
Lawyer: I don't think that describes what private advertisers...
Gohmert: Okay, does anybody here have any -- obviously, you're doing a good job protecting your employer -- but does anybody have any proposed legislation that would assist us in what we're doing?
What are we doing, here? Because it certainly seems like you're making one of the most ignorant arguments ever to come out of an elected officials' mouth, and that's saying quite a bit. You keep saying "private advertisers get A" when the reality is that private advertisers get nothing of the sort -- and then you ignore that (over and over and over and over again) and then say "well if private advertisers get A, why can't the government get A." The answer is because neither of them get A and never have.
Gohmert: I would be very interested in any phrase, any clauses, any items that we might add to legislation, or take from existing legislation, to help us deal with this problem. Because I am very interested and very concerned about our privacy and our email.
If you were either interested or concerned then you would know that no such information goes back to advertisers before you stepped into the room (hell, before you got elected, really). But, even if you were ignorant of that fact before the hearing, the fact that the lawyer tried half a dozen times, in a half a dozen different ways to tell you that the information is not shared should have educated you on that fact. So I'm "very interested" in what sort of "language" Gohmert is going to try to add to legislation that deals with a non-existent problem that he insists is real.
Gohmert: And just so the simpletons that sometimes write for the Huffington Post understand, I don't want the government to have all that information.
Rep. Sensenbrenner: For the point of personal privilege, my son writes for the Huffington Post.
Gohmert: Well then maybe he's not one of the simpletons I was referring to.
Sensenbrenner: He does have a Phd.
Gohmert: Well, you can still be a PHUL.
Har, har, har... wait, what? So much insanity to unpack. First of all, Gohmert seems to think that people will be making fun of him for suggesting that the government should "buy" access to your email on Google. And, yes, we will make fun of that, but not for the reasons that he thinks they will. No one thinks that Gohmert seriously wants the government to buy access to information on Google. What everyone's laughing (or cringing) at is the idea that anyone could buy that info, because you can't. No private advertiser. No government. It's just not possible.
But, I guess we're all just "simpletons."
Seriously, however, we as citizens deserve better politicians. No one expects politicians to necessarily understand every aspect of technology, but there are some simple concepts that you should at least be able to grasp when explained to you repeatedly by experts. When a politician repeatedly demonstrates no ability to comprehend a rather basic concept -- and to then granstand on their own ignorance -- it's time to find better politicians. Quickly.