As many of the recent revelations of government surveillance and information gathering are revealing, government agencies such as the FBI and NSA are violating the law. Recently, the DOJ investigation into the FBI’s use of NSLs reveals many violations of law. So where are the penalties?
In the latest surveillance scandal, the FBI says that it is sorry. According to the New York Times:
The Pentagon and to a lesser extent the CIA have been using a little-known power to look at the banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage within the United States, officials said Saturday.
The C.I.A. has also been issuing what are known as national security letters to gain access to financial records from American companies, though it has done so only rarely, intelligence officials say.
Recently, New York AG Eliot Spitzer settled a case against Datran Media that could have some wide-ranging implications for information privacy law. Datran Media styles itself “a leading performance-based marketing company with Enabling Technology that connects marketers to consumers through a comprehensive set of email marketing and digital media services.” This is basically a verbose way of saying that it sends unsolicited email, which is perhaps a kind way of describing spam.
Datran obtained personal information from other companies which violated their privacy policies in selling the data to Datran. According to the AP:
Brian Bergstein writes in an AP article about the issue of law enforcement surveillance and technology:
With each new advance in communications, the government wants the same level of snooping power that authorities have exercised over phone conversations for a century. Technologists recoil, accusing the government of micromanaging — and potentially limiting — innovation.
Today, this tug of war is playing out over the Federal Communications Commission’s demands that a phone-wiretapping law be extended to voice-over-Internet services and broadband networks.
Opponents are trying to block the ruling on various grounds: that it goes beyond the original scope of the law, that it will force network owners to make complicated changes at their own expense, or that it will have questionable value in improving security.
No matter who wins the battle over this law — the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, known as CALEA — this probably won’t be the last time authorities raise hackles by seeking a bird’s eye view over the freewheeling information flow created by new technology.