December 15, 2007

Don't Immunize Telecom Spying! -- Votes Imminent?

Greetings. A must read New York Times article on the Bush Administration's push for vast international and domestic spying on telephone and e-mail transactional data, plus "vacuum cleaner" phone call and data surveillance projects, should alarm everyone who cares the least bit about their privacy.

Of particular note are imminent Congressional votes to determine if telecom firms will be granted immunity for spying abuses if they participate in these clandestine government efforts.

This proposed immunity appears to be absolutely key to the firms' open-arms, largely unquestioning participation, and for that very reason should not be granted by Congress.

Here's why in a nutshell. If the activities that the government wishes to pursue in this area are justifiable and legal, then the telecoms should have nothing to worry about regarding their cooperation. On the other hand, if these government surveillance projects are illegal, it is not in the telecom firms' best interests to become involved under any circumstances, given the potential risks of consumer backlash and retroactive legal changes when such cooperation and unfortunately likely abuses are ultimately exposed, even if immunity is granted now.

It can be argued that these firms have no sure way to know a priori whether or not such government inspired activities are legal today or will be considered to be legal in the future.

This is true -- but frankly, my response is "Tough luck, that's the cost of doing business, and if you have any concerns that something you're being asked to do is illegal, then perhaps you should err on the side of caution and refuse to play along."

The lack of immunity for telecom company surveillance abuses is virtually the only friction left in the system that helps to prevent a wholesale slide towards utterly pervasive communications spying.

If the government can successfully make its case that requested activities are legal, so be it. Otherwise, the telecom firms should be required to take their chances and make their decisions -- relating to government communications surveillance programs -- with the same litigation potential as exists with their other corporate operational decisions.

NO to telecom immunity!


Posted by Lauren at December 15, 2007 02:18 PM | Permalink
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