You know what we have too much of these days? Privacy. Whether it's what you're eating, what drugs you're doing, or how noble your wang looks, Americans remain yolked to the outmoded notion that we shouldn't know each other's deepest secrets and darkest banalities. Thankfully, Congress is rectifying that: a list of proposed amendments to a new Internet privacy bill would allow over 22 government agencies to view our emails, Google Docs, Facebook walls and direct messages on Twitter without a warrant. President Cronenberg endorsed the measures this morning, noting that "Americans who don't want the bad tumors to eat their filthy brains shouldn't have any issues with these amendments."
CNET obtained a draft of the amendments, which would allow authorities—including agencies such as the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission, the NLRB, the FTC and the Federal Maritime Commission (a notable exemption: the Government Accountability Office)—to view our content with only a subpoena, and provides an exception to defer notification of their access to the user by 360 days.
"There is no good legal reason why federal regulatory agencies such as the NLRB, OSHA, SEC or FTC need to access customer information service providers with a mere subpoena," a Washington D.C. attorney who specializes in public policy tells CNET. "If those agencies feel they do not have the tools to do their jobs adequately, they should work with the appropriate authorizing committees to explore solutions." The ACLU's legislative counsel added, "We believe a warrant is the appropriate standard" for government agencies to comb through citizens' content.
The proposed privacy legislation, which was designed to bolster antiquated privacy laws, initially required that authorities obtain a warrant before searching users' emails and online content. But in September law enforcement groups such as the National Sheriffs' Association and the National District Attorneys' Association objected to the bill, which is supported by Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Americans for Tax Reform, AT&T, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and many others.
According to CNET, Vermont's Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy is responsible for the amendments (his name is found on the draft obtained by the news organization), but his office now denies that assertion. "CNET has it wrong," a Leahy aide tweeted. "Sen. Leahy does NOT support an #ECPA exception to search warrant requirement [for] civil enforcement [for agencies] like FTC, SEC."
The Hill proffers that the amendments may have ultimately come from Iowa Republican Senator and the Last Person On Earth Who Should Be Legislating About Matters Of Technology and Privacy Chuck Grassley, but how can we know for sure unless we check their inboxes?
The Senate will take up the proposed legislation next week, but if the head of the CIA can't keep the FBI from reading about how he was waging coitus while waging an unsuccessful war, there's pretty much no hope for us.