No Online Privacy in America

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No Online Privacy in America


Along with its many benefits, the march of technology makes an encompassing surveillance network seem almost inevitable. We owe much of the privacy we have enjoyed in the past to a combination of immature technology and insufficient manpower to monitor us. But these protective inefficiencies are giving way to efficient technologies of data processing and digital surveillance that threaten to eliminate our privacy. Already we are tracked by our credit-card transactions, our passes through the fast-lanes at toll booths, our cell phone calls.

Each year brings more sensitive and widespread sensing devices, including cameras, microphones, and, potentially, biological sensors, all of which are being connected through increasingly efficient networks to increasingly more powerful data processing and storage. Cameras are proliferating, in toll plazas, on public streets, and in public parks. We welcome them as crime-fighters, even as they eliminate our ability to move through the world untracked. Face and voice recognition software may soon permit image data from surveillance cameras to be cross-referenced to data based profiles of each person observed. To get a hint of the future, enter your street address at globexplorer.com. You will see a satellite picture nearly good enough to show a car parked in your driveway, or in mine. Better resolution is coming soon.

We are moving toward a transparent society in which our actions and transactions are followed, our lives tracked and documented, by folks we neither know nor trust; each of us a star in our own Truman Show. (online Privacy)

By now, you have probably heard a lot of debate over the USA Patriot Act, the federal legislation passed to give investigators more tools for apprehending terrorists. Proponents of the law say we need it to protect ourselves. Opponents say it threatens our constitutional rights. Nevertheless, whatever position you take on these issues, it is important to know how the new law will affect your life online.

The Patriot Act is complex and powerful. It broadens the definition of terrorism and increases the penalties for terrorism.

Some of the more sweeping changes involve electronic surveillance. The act permits federal investigators to use more-powerful tools to monitor phone calls, e-mail messages, and even Web surfing. We all hope that means agents will be better able to arrest terrorists and foil their plans. But the changes also mean we now have even less guarantee of privacy on the Net.

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"No Online Privacy in America." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Jun 2018
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The new law, along with new surveillance tools, will create a dragnet wide enough that anyone's e-mail note, text chat, or search inquiry might be snared.( Pcworld consumer watch)

It's difficult to say exactly that what are the implications of this new type of surveillance. The Patriot Act is vague on many key points and understandably, law enforcement officials are not eager to reveal details about tools like the controversial Internet surveillance system, Carnivore and The magic lantern. It is probably fair to say that joking in an e-mail about planting a bomb is a very bad idea these days. And researching biological terror techniques over the Internet could conceivably draw suspicion.

The new law opens the door for increased use of tools like Magic lantern and Carnivore and similar broad-based electronic surveillance systems. (Pc world consumer). Magic Lantern will allow an agent to plant a keystroke logger in a specific computer by using a virus-like program. Once activated, the logger will capture words and numbers as a subject types them (before encryption kicks in), and will transmit them back to the agent. Magic Lantern will give the agency unprecedented access to digital communications.

The program goes too far, however. More than just getting into your data, it lets the FBI get "into your brain." (PC world). The program would not only capture messages you sent, it would capture messages that you wrote but never sent--things that perhaps you thought were a bad idea and deleted. This is the government using the Internet to get into people's houses and into their minds. ( PC world). The Magic Lantern technology, would allow investigators to secretly install over the Internet powerful eavesdropping software that records every keystroke on a person's computer, according to people familiar with the effort. While on the other hand, FBI’s Carnivore is a high-speed packet "sniffer" program developed by the FBI's Engineering Research Facility (ERF) to conduct electronic surveillance of e-mail and Internet communications. Carnivore is installed at an Internet Service Provider's (ISP's) facility to monitor selected transmissions. This spy tool provides law enforcement with access to the private communications of all subscribers of a particular service provider. It is this unique aspect of Carnivore that gives rise to fundamental privacy risks. (giga law legal controversy). This program can scan millions of emails per second in an effort to finds its target (Ashcrosft to appoint internet)

The Patriotic Act loosens the rules for roving wiretaps, conferring broad authority to listen in on a suspect's communications. Under previous laws, officials had to specify certain phone lines they wanted to monitor, along with proof that their suspect used them. Federal authorities said that “the old rules were outdated, since many people have phone lines at home, a mobile phone, and Internet access at home, at work”. The act lets agents wiretap any phone line--again, without showing probable cause--and monitor everything on that line whether the suspect is using it or not. (PC world)

There are a large number of problems with the FBI's use of a system like Carnivore and Magic lantern, and many Americans disagree on number of different points about it. First use of such kind of tools are Unconstitutional. The Constitution is largely a document of limits- limits on the ways in which Government may interfere with our lives. The Bill of Rights is a short list of specific aspects of our lives, which Government may not interfere. The 4th Amendment clearly prohibits such sweeping invasions of privacy and property as Carnivore and magic lantern commits.

The best thing about the Internet, the thing which has allowed it to prosper as much as it has, is lack of centralized control. An while there are those who would use this lack of control to their criminal advantage, it would be a far worse consequence to give up the "chaos" in favor of stringent control. All of the wondrous possibilities that the Internet offers us come at the price of it having no central control or governing body. To impose that type of control will be at the expense of the freedoms, which have made the Internet what it is today. For 30 years, Government control stifled and suppressed the growth of the Internet. We must not allow such a fate to be reinstated.

Moreover, it sets a bad precedent.What if the FBI said they wanted to monitor all telephone calls, for information about suspected criminals? What if they wanted to intercept all postal mail, to check and see if any of it was related to any of their suspects? What if they wanted to do a "profile" of the average marijuana user, by scanning huge amounts of electronic data, and compiling the marijuana-related communications? What if they wanted keys to everyone's houses, in case they had to get inside to investigate a crime? Use of the Carnivore and magic lantern system plants the seeds for all of those types of developments, and many more frightening ones.
Another reason is that it will harm Innocent people. The FBI can hardly be trusted to conduct their investigations with proper handling and precision, but even if they could, Magic lantern and Carnivore will end up hurting innocent people. The amount of guesswork involved in a sweeping search like these tools does insures that many "dead ends" and "bad leads" will be pursued. What this means is that the FBI will inevitably end up investigating (including search, seizure, intimidation, prosecution) innocent people. The use of a mass-level tool like simply insures that these will occur more frequently, and at a more widespread level. (Why it is bad for you#4)

Carnivore is the most severe threat yet to our Information Age. Its implementation sets the stage for Government to have a truly disturbing role in our society- that of switchboard operator. If we do not stop Carnivore, we will be blindly handing the bulk of the world's information to Federal Agents, and trusting that they will not use it improperly, or overstep their limitations. These programs go too far, and that fact has implications well beyond the fourth Amendment and it is in clear and disturbing violation of the fourth Amendment. First amendment rights are also at stake since communications and associations will be chilled, if they are subject to government snooping. The government's use of such tool is troubling to many ways. Americans value their privacy guaranteed by the Constitution, and many see the government's use of such tools as erosion of these rights. The "trust us, we are the government" argument does not sit well with those already concerned with the growing number of traditional wiretaps and, consequently, the growing number of private conversations monitored by government agencies today.

Works Cited

Kim, Zetter. “New Technologies, Laws Threaten Privacy.” PC World March 2002: 22-24

Andrew, Brandt. “National Security vs. Online Privacy.” PC World January 2002: 18-22

Tim, McDonald “Ashcrosft to Appoint Internet Privacy Aide.”E-commerce News. 2001.April 16, 2002

Margaret ,Smith. “Legal Controversy and the FBI’s Carnivore Program.” Gigalaw.com. 22 October 2001.

Ted, Bridis. “FBI Building a “Magic Lantern”.” Washington Post. 23 November, 2001.


Carroll, Robert. “Why Carnivore/DCS1000 is Bad for you”. Stopcarnivore.org. 9 December, 2001.


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