A couple of days ago, we were discussing why you shouldn’t allow people who have no inclination of how technology operates to be in charge of major committees who deal primarily with writing up the legislation that covers this stuff. The end result is never positive, with these things. And if there’s one thing that humanity should be free to do, it’s post ridiculous sh*t on the Internet.
Well, a couple of weeks ago, the Senate authored a bill that, theoretically, would update a 1986 law so that police looking to access your online files would be forced to prove probable cause and obtain a warrant. Because, obviously, if police are interested in looking through your panty drawer, they have to give a reason. The same should be true with your virtual panty drawer. The bill was hefty, protecting pretty much all of your stored information, except for your whereabouts as broadcast to the universe via your cell phone and your public updates (because taking endless photos of your lunch exposes your location to the public at large, thus eliminating your interest in your own privacy).
But, of course, such things don’t last long behind closed doors. Today it was revealed that after publicly touting his commitment to the privacy of American citizens, Sen. Pat Leahy – who is a Democrat from Vermont of all places – privately red inked the ever loving sh*t out of that bill until nothing was left but the bare specter of your once precious Constitutional rights.
CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week.
Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.)
Some of the funner aspects of the bill? Well, in addition to exposing every last shred of your digital footprint to the whims of people who routinely molest air travelers and confiscate expensive materials in the name of national security, the bill grants access to Americans’ email communications to 22 different federal agencies and grants local law enforcement the power to examine any communications that are stored on servers not normally open to the public, which means your college email mp3 exchange suddenly got a lot more illegal-y. And the best part? According to this awesome new bill, they don’t even have to warn you that the police are pawing through your porn stash; the bill requires service providers to notify law enforcement before they notify you that you’ve been the subject of a subpoena, and allows them to then delay notifying you for up to 360 days.
So be careful what you put in that email, people. Those cat pictures might show up at your trial.