The Death of Personal Privacy

The Death of Personal Privacy

Graham C
Graham C

This week a bill will be voted on by the United States Senate that's incredibly important for the future of personal privacy, and it's likely you probably don't know about it. It's called FISA 702, and to understand how we got here we need to first take a trip to where it started.

It Started With Richard Nixon

For the unaware, former US President Richard Nixon was caught spying on an opponent right before an election in 1978 and resigned in shame/to avoid legal scrutiny. In response to this, a merry band of 10 senators led by Ted Kennedy championed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA.

Its original intent was to provide both Judicial and Congressional oversight into the US Government's covert (illegal) surveillance activities of both US and foreign citizens.

Jorge Bush Escalates Things

In 2005, the New York Times uncovered a warrantless wiretapping program happening all over the United States, ordered by the Bush administration. The National Security Agency (NSA) had been carrying out these warrantless wiretaps, illegally listening to phone calls, monitoring internet activity, and any other forms of digital communication, since 2002.

A Side Dish of Kangaroo Court

FISA also established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret to approve or deny search warrants. It's comprised of 11 judges, accountable only to the Chief Justice of the United States. Let's put that into simpler terms: The legality of these warrants is decided behind closed doors with essentially 0 accountability... No way that'll be abused. /s

The Uncanny Irony

In 2017, without a shred of irony, the US government used the FISA act to do the very thing it intended to curtail: legalize warrantless domestic surveillance, specifically with the creation of Section 702. This section explicitly allows the NSA to conduct warrantless searches of both American and Foreign citizens' communications - presumably without any justifiable reason.

Let's be real, it's not like anybody has any actual oversight into what the NSA is doing - even if they did they can't stop them.

Entering Dystopian Levels

Just when you thought things couldn't escalate any further, they go and do it again. This time, Section 702 has undergone a hefty legalese procedure, now including language that could presumably force nearly every company and individual that provides any internet-related service to assist with NSA surveillance.

In other words, they could force your cable guy to wiretap your house during routine maintenance, and his refusal could carry federal penalties. But it's not just your cable guy either, it's your dentist, your gym, your local laundromat. Anywhere that provides you with free public wifi. What a time to live, am I right?

What Can I Do Now?

The sad reality is, this monster is now out of control. Once this threshold gets crossed, where everyday citizens can be legally compelled to spy on their countrymen for seemingly innocuous reasons, there is no going back.

Moving forward, the assumption should be that there is no personal privacy anymore in public, at least not anywhere that's under the economic control of the US, its allies, China, or Russia. Implementing a proactive and comprehensive privacy strategy should be high on your list of priorities. Due to the absolutely ridiculous nature of this update to FISA 702, we're tripling the normal amount of free data to 30 GB so you can stay safe online without breaking the bank.

Graham C
Graham C