The Petraeus/Broadwell email dragnet, which hasn't yielded evidence of any crime, has brought our attention to the FBI's sweeping powers to surveil email. But as ProPublica's Peter Maas writes, "It's not just email."
In July, Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, cajoled major cellphone carriers into disclosing the number of requests for data that they receive from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies: In 2011, there were more than 1.3 million requests. As ProPublica reported at the time, "Police obtain court orders for basic subscriber information so frequently that some mobile phone companies have established websites — here's one — with forms that police can fill out in minutes. The Obama Administration's Department of Justice has said mobile phone users have 'no reasonable expectation of privacy.'"
There's a particularly cruel irony in all of this: If you contact your cell-phone carrier or Internet service provider or a data broker and ask to be provided with the information on you that they provide to the government and other companies, most of them will refuse or make you jump through Defcon levels of hops, skips, and clicks. Uncle Sam or Experian can easily access data that shows where you have been, whom you have called, what you have written, and what you have bought — but you do not have the same privileges.
The FBI’s dumpster-dive into Paula Broadwell’s email archive has not yet revealed evidence of any crime, but it has revealed to America the extent to which our government is capable of collecting and surveilling our electronic communications. Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima in the Washington Post : Many details surrounding the case remain unclear. The […]
Geoffrey Fowler and Evan Perez in the Wall Street Journal write about one practical (and, yes, obvious) takeaway from the Petraeus scandal: “Privacy protections for even the most sophisticated users of consumer-email services actually protect very little.” Or, as Kurt Opsahl from the EFF puts it in the article, “If the director of central intelligence […]
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