April 12, 2013
By: Kelly Diamond, Editor
What is “reasonable” for government agents, usually is quite UNreasonable to the private citizen, especially when it comes to privacy of our virtual communications!
I keep hearing the word “reasonable” from government agencies! In the words of the great Inigo Montoya (h/t “The Princess Bride”), “You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Earlier this week, a member of the Obama administration opined on what a “reasonable” amount of retirement savings should be. Now we’ve got FBI and IRS agents providing their input on what constitutes a “reasonable” expectation of privacy.
Not surprisingly, the FBI and IRS don’t think we HAVE a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to our virtual communications. (Feel free to take a moment to recuperate from the shock.) Laws currently exist on the books which are meant to prevent “illegal searches and seizures”. We have the Fourth Amendment, for example:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Evidently you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in only the things the government doesn’t want to look into. If someone hacked my email account, that would be considered a crime. When “Anonymous” hacked government accounts, that was an act of “cyber terrorism”. But when the government hacks OUR accounts to read our emails that’s to be expected… in fact, it’s reasonable? In 1986, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act passed, allowing federal agents to access up to 180 days’ worth of archived emails WITHOUT a warrant.
In 2008, the US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in US v Warshak that no-warrant searches of emails was in fact a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Since then, activist groups of all political stripes – liberal, conservative, libertarian – as well as prominent businesses like Amazon, Apple, AT&T, eBay, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Twitter, have advocated for the ECPA to be updated and require probable cause and search warrants.
However, there is no way to know if the IRS has sought a warrant for every email account it accessed after the Warshak ruling. The information gathered and found by the ACLU indicates the searches continued, but the warrants were not obtained in every case. In fact, in an IRS handbook released in 2011, it still insists a warrant is not necessary to obtain email archives less than 180 days old.
The FBI is up against some legal restraints as well in its efforts to access and seize information in people’s private virtual accounts. The Communictions Assistance for Law Enforcement Act allows federal agencies to compel internet and phone providers to install surveillance equipment in their networks. It does not, however, cover email, cloud services or online chat services like Skype. Moreover, it does nothing to help them with real-time communications via Dropbox, Google Voice, or online gaming.
Under Title III of the Wiretap Act, agents can ask online email and chat providers to provide “technical assistance necessary to accomplish the interception”. The FBI finds this troublesome because they want authority to force them to “effectuate” real-time surveillance… technical assistance is insufficient in helping them keep up with real-time exchanges and communications. Google, for example uses SSL Encryption which requires the feds to seek access from Google. According to FBI General Council, Andrew Weissman, it is the priority of the Bureau to get more surveillance authority (read: enhance its spy powers).
The mentality of the federal agencies is similar to someone who says, “Locking the door to your house, still means anyone can come in.” As if virtually locking my online communications with password level protection fails to indicate or adequately communicate to the general public and government that I want my information left alone?
Evidently our information is at as much risk as our wealth! Here at Global Wealth Protection, we offer information and encourage our subscribers and readers to globalize their assets to safeguard them against the thieving hands of government and litigious gold-diggers. It stands to reason that we would be affiliated with the folks at Cryptohippie.
Their services provide the utmost in privacy, maintaining your anonymity by passing everything through at least two national jurisdictions and not operating out of any US based networks. In fact, they only serve as authenticators to a network, but have no involvement in the operation of that network. That disconnect between network services and your account information along with your activities allows Cryptohippie to simply facilitate military grade encryption and privacy for its customers.
While some folks are looking to and waiting on laws and lawmakers to protect their rights and privacy, the free market has stepped up to the plate once again to deliver where governments fail. It also appears that the laws are being written to make these searches somehow allowable, while the market answers the pleas of what people really want: privacy and to be left alone. Perhaps I romanticize free-market capitalism a bit, but I find a certain amount of heroism in the fact that the market exemplifies the benefits of decentralization. Whether it’s decentralized currency, or decentralized VPNs, or globalized assets… it the central planners and their agencies flummoxed, but leaves you, the private citizen, protected.