Mike German, ACLU policy counsel and former FBI agent, was recently on Reason.tv discussing domestic surveillance in post-9/11 America. German covers the U.S. government’s growing interest in collecting personal data, the development of data fusion centers, and the erosion of existing privacy protections.
Speaking specifically about the 4th Amendment, Brown explains:
The way the 4th Amendment protections work with your personal papers, requires probable cause and a warrant before the government can search your desk to look through your papers. Unfortunately, now most of our personal papers are kept on 3rd party servers. It’s our email that’s stored remotely. Every thought that we have we hit the search engines to find out more about the subject we’re thinking bout. All that gets recorded by 3rd parties, and that information doesn’t have the same 4th Amendment protections.
The hypocrisy is extraordinary. For decades the U.S. government has extended and enhanced intellectual property protections. The rationale has been that the laws governing property ownership in the physical environment must also apply in the digital environment. Downloading a Beatles album from Pirate Bay is treated the same as shoplifting a Beatles album from Walmart. But, when it comes to personal property in the digital environment (i.e. your data) we see an erosion of what little protections existed in the physical environment. In short: protect intellectual property, collect personal data.