Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tap that Telethon!

The government has access to your phone records.  Rather, they have access to the electronic records generated by your telecommunications company every time you make a call - incoming number, its location (globally), and the length of time. These telecoms even have the ability to store and record the IP address of Skype calls, as well as other VoIP services.

Having taken my fair share of Battletoads calls while working for GameStop, I know this one well.

I also know that a citizen, with evidenced probable cause, can request a warrant for the phone records of another citizen.  These records will be maintained by the police, and submitted from them to a judge in cases of phone harrassment.  Both parties will be made privvy to the information relating only to their case.

This is within a citizen's sphere of influence.  I think if we took a moment to understand that our capabilities within our own legal system come so close to that of our government's, we could all calm the hell down and think about this like rational people.

Crazy expectations, I know.

Look, I'm not saying there isn't an irrational amount of hype over something that has been going on for ages.  The newest revision of the policy was enacted rapidly, building upon an older policy, and the public has lost the understanding and awareness of these in the shuffle.  That's the thing - we're afraid of something we don't understand, and it's easier to hype up than to explain it down.  For those still in the gray areas, CNN has a feature on "telephone tapping" that covers the whole thing.

In short, shaking this bit of laundry out for some fresh air is going to result in 'alterations' to the policy, and if those are executed, the burden will be shifted from the NSA to Homeland Security (as they are the current branch responsible for domestic threats).  Right now, the NSA is bound by old-world laws like 'probable cause' to secure a warrant to search any personal information of a US citizen.  This policy outlines their stipulations, and also details that a warrant is *not* needed if you are *not* a naturalized citizen (again, this is an old, old law - "telephones had wires and the internet didn't exist" old).  This also entails their authority over (and restrictions of) overseas communications with US citizens.

Homeland Security, however, doesn't need a warrant.  They don't even need probable cause.  Just a hunch.  This is what makes them effective at isolating domestic threats; not so good at being a police force. 

You want to do some good, either have the policy terminated, or leave it alone.  Anything else is just creating a precedent for something worse.

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