Monday, August 6, 2007

Defending privacy on multiple fronts

An LA Times op-ed asks whether "Internet shaming turn Average Joes into Big Brother":

When we talk of privacy in the Internet age, we mostly speak of financial information and the mounds of data that search engines keep on our e-behavior. But more and more, digital media and the relative anonymity of the Web enable netizens to expose, call out and shame others in cyberspace.

...It's not so much a centralized authority we fear but our fellow citizens, who now have the capacity to grab little pieces of our lives, pass judgment on them and project them across the globe.

Internet shaming may be one thing, but with a weekend ruling effectively legalizing and expanding the Bush administration's wiretapping program, there are still ample legitimate reasons to be concerned about privacy violations committed by centralized authority:

For the past several months, the White House has been aggressively pressuring Congress to expand the administration's spying powers and update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). On Friday, President Bush bemoaned that Congress had not "drafted a bill I can sign." "We've worked hard and in good faith with the Democrats to find a solution, but we are not going to put our national security at risk," said Bush. The House surrendered and voted 227 to 183 on Saturday to endorse the administration-backed legislation, which expands the powers of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Bush hailed the bill, which he signed into law yesterday, because it would give the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell "the most immediate tools he needs to defeat the intentions of our enemies." But in reality, the White House had rejected a narrower compromise bill endorsed by both McConnell and the congressional leadership. As the New York Times noted, this episode was another attempt by the President to "stampede Congress into a completely unnecessary expansion of his power to spy on Americans."

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