Nov 17 2012

Mother Jones: The Real Reason You Should Care About the Petraeus Affair: Privacy

Once you’ve opened an email or your Facebook account, you’ve provided your personal information to a third party. The government can then ask that third party—Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Friendster, or whatever—for your information, and they don’t necessarily need a warrant. The Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure by the government. It doesn’t stop third parties from sharing personal information you willingly give them. Likewise, there’s no warrant needed to acquire the IP addresses—unique identifiers that can usually be traced to specific geographical locations—of people accessing those email accounts. According to the Wall Street Journal, that’s exactly how the FBI figured out Broadwell was behind the allegedly harassing emails that sparked the investigation that uncovered the Petraeus affair.

That’s not all. All your emails that are more than six months old are legally treated as online “storage” and accessible with a court order or a subpoena to the online service provider. The providers can say no, but usually they don’t. By contrast, listening in on someone’s phone calls requires a warrant based on probable cause, along with a showing that the FBI has done everything else in their power to acquire the information they’re seeking. Now that many people communicate more frequently via email and instant messages than via phone conversations, the difference in standards doesn’t make much sense. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has proposed a bill that would subject requests for online communications to the same high standards required for tapping phones, but Congress doesn’t seem all that interested in passing it yet.

Click here to read the full story.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Mother Jones: The Real Reason You Should Care About the Petraeus Affair: Privacy”

  1. Roger Bon, Sr.on 17 Nov 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I have undergone several security clearance investigations and I believe that a breakdown in any manner of trust leaves an opening for compromise of sencitive information by others. I believe any top government official or military member should be held to a higher standard. Actions such as infidelity needs to be dealt with, if proven with serious measures.
    Three Four Star General, Wade, Petraus and Allen, are or have recently been investigated for inproprities, and enlisted man would be hung out to dry.

    ROGER BON, SR.

  2. Seanon 17 Nov 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Stop the enlisted man hung out to dray nonsense….I have seen enlisted do a ton of things similar and no one care. Security clearances says things are reportable but not actionable….i.e. you’ll get fired or be publicly humiliated over a questionably motivated FBI investigation.

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