Verizon, one of the biggest phone companies in U.S. is giving the records of millions of its customers to the National Security Agency, as The Guardian informed. The newspaper released a secret court order. The order pertains only to meta data, encompassing telephone numbers or the length of the call.
According with the Washington Post, Obama´s Administration has argued that, “this isn´t private or personal information. It´s, they say, the equivalent of looking at the envelope of a letter: what´s written on the outside is simple, functional information that´s essentially already public”. But the Democrat ex Vice-President Al-gore has qualified the order like “obscenely outrageous”, he said in a tweet also: “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is a secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous”. And, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center of Justice, Elizabeth Goitein said, “This suggest that government has been compiling a comprehensive record of Americas´ associations and possibly even their whereabouts”.
The court order came from the controversial USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), which was signed during Bush´s administration in 2001, the act is a response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Barack Obama was a ferocious critic of the Act while he was in campaign, accusing Bush of spying citizens, but now it seems that Obama is supporting and defending the Act.
The Verizon´s revelation is a reminder of how far the Act can go in terms of privacy. The debate is between the Patriot Act and the Constitution, for instance, The Amendment IV says, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violate, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched”, versus the Patriot Act, “Freedom from unreasonable searches: The government may search and seize Americans´ papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigation”. That is the core of the debate, because the Act is attempting against civil rights. “Politicians and civil liberties campaigners described it, as the most sweeping intrusion into private data they had ever seen by the U.S. government”, as the Guardian informed.
However, the Act is a new form of search warrant, what is known as sneak and peek warrant by legal scholars, authorizing police to entry into private premises without the owners´ permission or knowledge. When a conventional warrant is executed is when it occurs or shortly thereafter. The sneak and peek warrants is clearly different.
On another hand, mobile phones and companies have been doing this for a while. Every social network can classify a person based on their bios and localization.
Other companies, such as AT&T, T-mobile, Sprint Nextel Corp didn´t want to comment about it. They didn´t affirm or deny if there was a similar order for them.
John Miller, CBS News senior correspondent, former deputy director of national intelligence, said, “Let me tell you in principals why they do things like this. Metadata is the data about data. It´s not about content, they are not dealing with names, but with numbers, to find similar patterns”.
In other words, Verizon is watching you, but they don´t know who you are, at least for now. Many questions arise about politics, ethics and civil liberties. Americans are wondering if this is right or if freedom doesn´t come without a price.
By: Oskar Guzman.
Source: Washington Post, Reuters, CBS news, The Guardian