Sunday, June 09, 2013

Jack Shafer on Government Collection of Reams of Personal Data


Jack Shafer, The spy who came in for your soul Reuters (June 8, 2013):

Snippet:

"Faster than you can say evaporation-condensation-precipitation, I expect this week’s exposés to produce additional investigations that will produce more leaks and further scoops about our digital records. This will now fuel new cycles of reporting, leaks and scoops — and another, and another — as new sources are cultivated and reportorial scraps gathering mold in journalists’ notebooks gain new relevance and help break stories.


"Greenwald’s storm will continue to rage because, I suspect, the story won’t be limited to just phone records or Web data. Ultimately, it will be about the government’s pursuit of all the digital breadcrumbs we produce as necessary byproducts of day-to-day life — and phone records and Web data are just a small part.

"Bank records, credit history, travel records, credit card records, EZPass data, GPS phone data, license-plate reader databases, Social Security and Internal Revenue Service records, facial-recognition databases at the Department of Motor Vehicles and elsewhere, even 7-Eleven surveillance videos comprise information lodes that are of equal or greater value to the national security establishment than phone and Web files. It doesn’t sound paranoid to conclude that the government has reused, or will reuse, the interpretation of the Patriot Act it presented to the secret FISA court in its phone record and Prism data requests to grab these other data troves.

"Lest I sound like a Fourth Amendment hysteric, I understand there’s nothing automatically sacrosanct about any of the digital trails we leave behind. Lawful subpoenas can liberate all sorts records about you, electronic or otherwise.

"What’s breathtaking about these two government surveillance programs that the Guardian and theWashington Post have revealed is that they’re vast collections of data about hundreds of millions of people suspected of no wrongdoing and not part of any civil action. Defending the phone-record cull, National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper explained this week that smaller sets of information aren’t very useful in screening for and identifying “terrorism-related communications,” hence all must collected."





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