Privacy? Hah! Not on the Internet in America

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans Remember Wikileaks?  Yes, I know that seems so “yesterday,” but even with Julian Assange under “luxury arrest” and Wikileaks itself supposedly at death’s door because of financial attacks by its donation enablers like PayPal, the reverberations for all of us continue in our own homes and offices, and not just on the front pages of the globe’s papers.  A US judge ruled against Twitter’s efforts to protect the privacy of computer location and identity information, clearing a big obstacle in the legal path of the U. S. Department of Justice attempts (without search warrant incidentally) to investigate the accounts of one US computer expert, a Green politician and activist from Iceland, and a Dutch citizen, all of whom the DOJ wanted to determine if they aided Private Manning, Wikileaks, or anyone else in moving and divulging secrets to the press.

The Judge’s decision is chilling to all of us, as reported in the Times:

“Judge Liam O’Grady, from the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., wrote in his opinion that “the information sought was clearly material to establishing key facts related to an ongoing investigation and would have assisted a grand jury in conducting an inquiry into the particular matters under investigation.”

The judge said that because Twitter users “voluntarily” turned over the Internet protocol addresses when they signed up for an account, they relinquished an expectation of privacy.

“Petitioners knew or should have known that their I.P. information was subject to examination by Twitter, so they had a lessened expectation of privacy in that information, particularly in light of their apparent consent to the Twitter terms of service and privacy policy,” Judge O’Grady wrote.”

Needless to say, I added the emphasis above.  I would love to see a survey determine how many people thought when they signed up for Twitter that they were “voluntarily” surrendering all future privacy or protection from investigation of any of their speech and electronic communication via email.  I bet we could squeeze them all in a phone booth.  It would probably be easier to find a working phone booth in fact than these few folks!   They “knew or should have known…they had a lessen expectation of privacy….”  What can you say, but “WOW!”

Add that to the news in the same edition that Facebook is now following Google in submitting to 20 years of FCC inspection (though I’m not sure that means much these days?) for breaches of privacy rules and lax privacy controls as they troll and mine our data, and you start to realize that essentially everything we do – at least electronically – is open season for governmental and commercial interests.

Wikileaks may have failed in achieving its goal of more transparency in government, but as an indirect result, we as citizens may now be virtually translucent and 100% transparent!