Sunday, May 28, 2006

The dubious state of the internet and privacy

Net neutrality is becoming an international issue. Amnesty International started a new campaign called Irrepressible aimed at nations who monitor and punish individuals for expressing their political opinions through chat rooms, blogs, or other forms of internet media. It's nice to see the international community get involved with civil rights on the internet. Domestically, it looks like there will be several interesting revelations in the law in the near future. The New York Times coverage of recent litigation pitting Apple against bloggers who have released information on Mac technology spurred one California appellate court to rebuke Apple's request for subpoenas and restrict access to the bloggers' sources as a violation of the First Amendment. This is the first time that a court of any kind has extended protections typically afforded to print journalists to bloggers and internet news writers as well. Another new and interesting development in law affecting the internet is the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act. While the act only just made it out of a House committee, it at least appears that legislation may start to go in the right direction. Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott also testified before the Senate on behalf of SaveTheInternet. (a quick primer on what a world without a neutral net might be like) It's nice to see that Congress is interested in what the American public wants instead of bowing to its campaign contributors. Maybe this is just a hick-up in the oligarchical scheme of our government. It seems as though DRM is coming under new fire, too. All developments that I hope will lead to more user friendly computing.

On the personal privacy front, it turns out that the NSA will deny any request for information regarding its domestic telephone database under the Freedom of Information Act. Not only are they not now disclosing the program, but they won't give anyone any information regarding the program, even under the color of law. It appears that AT&T thinks that this information should not enter the public domain either. It's nice to know that everyone is on the same page about keeping Americans in the dark regarding violations of their civil liberties, and the Constitution. is running an interesting opinion by a former NSA data analyst. While the opinion presents an interesting perspective consistent with my own feelings on the matter, I would like to clarify that my reading of FISA does not permit intelligence agencies to tap the phone lines of Americans, just see section 1802(a)(1)(B) of FISA to figure that one out.

Finally, I really want to know why Republicans feel the need to have so many lists with Americans' names on them. Apparently, the Mayor of New York wants a list of all the "legal" American workers on it. As if identity theft wasn't already a problem, why not create a new black market source for identities. It's useless and absurd to put the average American citizen at that kind of risk.

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