Monday, June 21, 2010

Trading civil liberties: monitoring the internet

On June 19, Recliner Commentaries posted a link to an AP article in which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano argued essentially that we must trade civil liberties for security by allowing the government to monitor the internet.

I was thinking very narrowly of things like blogs and webpages that are available publicly anyway and commented saying I basically that I didn't see what the big deal was. Kevin, one of my long time readers, provided an excellent and much more thoughtful response to my post. With his permission I have re-posted it below:
The phrase "monitoring Internet communications" is so vague it's useless in the debate. You're example, monitoring public boards is a strawman. It's a public forum, of course the government can monitor it like Google or Microsoft can. But what about your email, how about your phone calls that get converted to IP and routed over the Internet, maybe your purchases from Amazon, your bank statements, and electricity bills... perhaps you're private files that you store on Google's servers, or the pictures of your family vacation you post to a private site for only family and friends to view?

Does she mean the government has the right to monitor all Internet traffic in order to build profiles and determine who may or may not be threat? What will they do with all of the other data they collect? What other profiles will they build? What constitutes "a threat"? Is it just the guy who wants to talks about Alla and bombs or is it also the guy who talks about Jesus and abortion and the government and the homosexual agenda?

I'm shocked by how easily you're willing to give so much power to the government.
To add to my previous post. How about tracking what sites you go to on the Internet in order to build a profile? Perhaps tracking all of the people who visit a particular Islamic site, or your church's website, or the TEA party website.

What about in a few years when your care has GPS and is attached to the Internet to receive targeted information based on your location (your phone does this today)... should the government be able to monitor and analyze this data?

The answer is NO! NO! NO!. The government must be required to have a court order to access private data not published in an open and public forum.

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