Friday, February 12, 2010

Obama = Bush

Now that I've got your attention, yes, I mean that. When it comes to citizens privacy rights, I can see no discernable difference between their administrations. Obama is continuing the national phone monitoring that was started by the Bush Adminstration. A program that is unconstitutional and does little if anything to benefit national security.

If that wasn't bad enough, last night I saw two articles talking about a case being argued today in Philidelphia. The first was at and was pretty short. The headline says it all:
The Government Can Monitor Your Location All Day Every Day Without Implicating Your Fourth Amendment Rights

The second was an opinion piece by Catherine Crump at the Philadelphia Enquirer. It began with,
"If you own a cell phone, you should care about the outcome of a case scheduled to be argued in federal appeals court in Philadelphia tomorrow. It could well decide whether the government can use your cell phone to track you - even if it hasn't shown probable cause to believe it will turn up evidence of a crime."

The Obama administration is asserting that U.S. citizens have no reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to their cell phones. This premise comes from the "third party doctrine." The third party doctrine is controversial to say the least, and in the modern age the equivalent of completely removing all Fourth Amendment protections without the pesky need to actually repeal it.

The third party doctrine says that once you knowingly give information to a third party you lose the right to the Fourth Amendment protections. Just to help keep things clear, the Fourth Amendment says:
Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The third party doctrine is based on the premise that, since the phone company, your ISP, and any other company you may give data to is not within the four walls of your home or on your person, that data is no longer protected by the Fourth Amendments clause against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Forget whether or not you are doing anything illegal. Under the third party doctrine the government can subpoena your browsing history from your ISP without having to prove probable cause. Anything you put on Facebook (not that Facebook is private), and possibly even anything you backup to Carbonite or other online backup service.  I say possibly to the backup services because they are usually encrypted, so a "reasonable expectation of privacy" can be argued. The same can't be said for email, cell phones, text messages or almost anything sent over the internet.

I don't know about you, but almost everything I do that doesn't involve direct, face to face communication goes through a third party before reaching it's destination. There is almost nothing I do that the government can't look into for no other reason than curiosity using the third party doctrine. Knowing the history of the American colonies and the revolution, I know the founding fathers never intended the government to have that kind of power.