Tens of Thousands of Email Subpoenas

Ideas and Issues

WIKILEAKS/TWITTERNew Orleans No wonder Wikileaks wants to open the door on everything on the internet, reading the news it seems that the damn door is already open wide and swinging according to an article in the Times by Miguel Helft and Claire Cain Miller about subpoenas and declining to nonexistent privacy protections for email, internet, and social networking.   These revelations were provoked by Twitter (hip, hip, hooray for those folks!) going to court and forcing the opening of a sealed subpoena to them for the account information from some of the Wikileak principles asking for them to send over their kitchen sink.

Factoids include:

  • Verizon reported to Congress in 2007 that it received 90,000 such requests per year. [Note to self:  thank god I don’t have a Verizon service on a phone!]
  • Google has an accessible tool for all countries that shows it received 4200 requests in the first half of 2010.
  • Facebook told Newsweek they get 10 to 20 requests per day, so let’s say 5000 per year or so.
  • “Last year … the Justice Department argued in court that cellphone users had given up the expectation of privacy about their location by voluntarily giving that information to carriers.”  [Of course there is no way to obtain a cellphone without giving your address that I know of!]
  • “In April, it [DOJ] argued in a federal court in Colorado that it ought to have access to some e-mails without a search warrant.”  [April 2010 under AG Eric Holder and the Obama Administration]
  • “…the government does not notify people that they are searching their online information or prove probable cause, and if the government violates the law in obtaining information, defendants are generally unable to exclude that evidence from a trial…”  This information is courtesy of Professor Susan Freiwald, an expert in electronic surveillance law from the University of San Francisco School of Law!
  • “…law enforcement officials do not need a warrant to read e-mail messages that are more than 180 days old.”  [OMG! WTF!!!]
  • There have been no amendments to privacy laws on communications since 1986 before the dominance of the internet.

From reading the paper everyone makes sure that they say that DOJ and others are just “doing their jobs” trying to catch criminals and stuff.  The companies (other than our Twitter heroes of the day!) were silent other than saying that their privacy rules in the fine print say that they respond to proper legal requests.  It’s very clear nobody out there is doing anything to protect the freedom of speech and privacy protections of your run-of-the-mill Americans, who are the ones most likely to not use protected accounts or servers, but instead rely on the free systems provided by Google and the like.

This is scary stuff.  When the requests start coming in the tens of thousands and the totals start breaking hundreds of thousands who can be sure anymore that you are not in that number?

If you want to know my opinion on this, call me or send me a letter!