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11/03/2002 Archived Entry: "More on privacy...11/03/02"
More breaking news on the erosion of privacy rights.
The government "is no longer required to demonstrate 'probable cause' when requesting records. “FBI and police used to have to show probable cause that a person had committed a crime when requesting materials,” says Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE). 'Now, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act,' Finan continues, “it is possible for them to investigate a person who is not suspected of criminal activity, but who may have some connection to a person [who is]. Worse … there is a gag provision barring bookstores or libraries from telling anyone—including the suspect—about the investigation. Violators of the gag order can go to jail."
Meanwhile, the Patriot Act has opened "loopholes that let electronic communications service providers give customer records to law enforcement officials without a warrant. In lay terms, the folks that provide your email account are an electronic service provider, and your actual emails could fall into the category of customer records.... Traditionally getting electronic records, which can include your actual emails, has required a warrant, and companies that handed over such information without that warrant could face penalties."
A heartening story, for a change... Big Bobby is watching. That's the message of posters plastered along London's bus routes earlier this week to assuage riders' crime fears. Instead, the posters have caused a backlash of protect by those who value their privacy and don't relish 1984-style surveillance by the State. Perry de Havilland discussed the controversy in his libertarian blog, Samizdata. Warning! It loads slowly but is worth the wait.
On the personal front, there is a cozy layer of snow on the ground that should melt slowly over the next few days, adding much needed volume to the water table. I've started our first fire of the season in the airtight stove -- a form of heat I much prefer to electric -- and the very walls of the house feel warm. The next few months should be happy and productive ones, with little distraction from churning out material already committed to publishers and institutes.