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Saturday, November 17, 2007


The Bush/Cheney clan is once again pursuing the right to spy on innocent Americans by trying to force changes in a new version of the surveillance bill already overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee. You remember all this Big Brother stuff from the NSA scrutiny of telephone calls in the U.S. starting in 2001 and reported by MSNBC at the end of 2005. AT&T and Verizon were eventually cited as providing personal customer data to the Bush administration without having been served legal warrants as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). According to a Newsweek article, “The Politics of Eavesdropping,” Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut said in October of 2007 that he would filibuster against this legislation, and USA Today says Dodd “will use his senatorial ‘hold’ power to prevent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation from being considered by the full Senate. The move would effectively stall a measure that President Bush and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell have said is essential to protect national security.” and DailyKos stepped in to pressure more Democrats to step up to the plate and Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden did just that falling in behind Dodd. Hilary Clinton wants to study the bill “very hard.” The bill is designed to update and extend the Protect America Act, which gives the intelligence guys more authority. Just what we all need. In the new Senate bill, any electronic eavesdropping has to be approved by FISA, which is good. What is bad is the fact that Bush is demanding that AT&T and Verizon, plus all other communications companies who cooperated in the surveillance program, get blanket immunity from lawsuits which number over 40 at this time. The litigation states that companies like AT&T and Verizon violated their customers’ privacy, but I have what I feel is possibly a parallel interest that could impact the dreaded, long-term contracts that we are required to sign for wireless service. Did AT&T, Verizon and the others, by releasing customers’ private information, violate the terms of the cell-phone contract? If so, does that give the individual who wants out of a bad contract the right to cancel? It would be great to hear the opinions of attorneys on this issue. I am a Verizon wireless customer, but so far I am happy with my contract. However, what I am not happy with is their latest privacy notice which states that I must physically and personally opt-out of allowing them to share my private information with affiliates, agents and company subsidiaries. Wrong! It should be on an opt-in basis only, and this is the major problem today with companies sharing our names and personal data. Opt-in is a form of trickery with the assumption that most folks won’t take the time; much akin to an old junk mail philosophy that, even if customers didn’t like the merchandise they ordered, they wouldn’t take the time and spend the money to return it. The Verizon print in this matter is so small you almost need a magnifying glass to read it, but I did catch the phrase that specifies “they can disclose my personal data “to comply with any laws, court order or subpoena,” none of which were exercised by the government in the NSA incident. The ultimatum in Verizon’s privacy notice was that unless I replied in the negative in 30 days, they were free to share this sensitive information with those designated. I’m letting it ride for the time being, because I monitor the activities of every company we deal with that collects our private information. Somewhere in the future, I might decide I don’t like the Verizon contract, and could have the ammunition to opt out of everything, including their service.

1 comment:

Scholar said...

Hello all!

Nice to see I'm not the only one interested in this topic. I've just created a blog in which I talk about international politics. My last post is titled 'On technology, privacy, and other challenges in the XXI century'. It talks about cameras, databases, and how Governments and Corporations should manage that data. Feel free to take a look and comment or post there if you want. It doesn't have any advertising.

It's here:

See ya!