By Philip  |  11-22-2017   News
Photo credit: Badboo | Dreamstime

The Electric Frontier Foundation is warning that the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance powers through Section 702 of FISA violate <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/11/nsa-internet-surveillance-under-section-702-violates-first-amendment">First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly as well as the 4th Amendment right to privacy</a>. The 4th Amendment right to privacy is often invoked in overreaches regarding data mining procedures used by intelligence and often corporate interests and other groups practice equally worrying privacy practices. Big Data becomes a more prevalent force as the 21st century progresses. Predictive AI, automation and "smart cities" will be ubiquitous soon. The implications of the threat to the 1st and 4th Amendments as a result of the steady creep of rights violations from the private and public sector should pose a great concern to anyone interested in preserving free speech.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="fr" dir="ltr">NSA surveillance chills dissent. <a href="https://t.co/MSJ8aGoNZy">https://t.co/MSJ8aGoNZy</a></p>&mdash; EFF (@EFF) <a href="https://twitter.com/EFF/status/933444591868448768?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 22, 2017</a></blockquote>

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The NSA's Section 702 allows for continued data mining and extraction of copious amounts of communications information. In addition to this, the tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple have demonstrated an eagerness to sell out their user's privacy again and again. The cloud has become a ubiquitous panopticon, ever hovering and hoovering up every bit of personal data you enter knowingly or unknowingly into it. Android records and correlates your GPS data without your permission. Android phones also occasionally record and stores snippets of the audio online when they hear a conversation. "The better to understand your speech patterns," their subtext for this creepy habit. Knowing this urges some to seek the shelter of VPN's and P2P servers like TOR, but some just choose to spurn unpopular, sensitive or controversial material for fear of that data being shared, used or made public one day.

<blockquote>"As our society has moved online, our associations have become digital in nature. Signing up for a membership or learning about an advocacy group often happens over a website or app. Members of modern political groups coordinate donations, activities, and information over social networks, email, and websites. When the NSA—either by itself or by working with corporate “partners”—collects the digital communications and browsing the history of countless individuals, it’s also obtaining records of innocent Americans visiting activism websites, becoming members of advocacy groups, and coordinating social movements. EFF also raised this argument in our case against the mass telephone records collected by the NSA (substantially narrowed in 2015) First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v NSA.

The surveillance of our communications systems, and thereby the surveillance of our communications, infringes on the very rights of private assembly upheld by the Supreme Court in 1958.

So while the Fourth Amendment concerns about 702 and mass surveillance are important, they are not the only problem created by the law. And as Alex Abdo, an attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, argues that when it comes to confronting government surveillance, we shouldn’t expect the Fourth Amendment alone to protect our First Amendment interests. He recently wrote that “The Fourth Amendment, unlike the First, is blind to the cumulative effects of invasions of privacy that are small in isolation but substantial in combination.”

Those cumulative effects are especially felt when it comes to the right to publish and access information freely. While the government may be forbidden from censoring online speakers and readers, the cumulative impact of pervasive digital surveillance has a chilling effect on online communities."</blockquote>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Inspired by other Section 702 reauthorization bills, the Senate-side USA Liberty Act helps close the “backdoor” search loophole. <a href="https://t.co/e5DwdoVI7C">https://t.co/e5DwdoVI7C</a></p>&mdash; EFF (@EFF) <a href="https://twitter.com/EFF/status/933402959529918464?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 22, 2017</a></blockquote>

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We are not only allowed assembly and free speech but the right to private assembly and private free speech. The Supreme Court has upheld the "Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs."

In China, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-skype-china/microsofts-skype-pulled-from-apple-android-china-app-stores-idUSKBN1DL1IG">Skype was just shut down</a>. Why? For the same reason that <a href="https://9to5mac.com/2017/10/19/apple-watch-series-3-china-lte/">Apple's new smartwatch had to be shut down</a>. The government couldn't fully control and monitor all communications on it yet. In a world of state or corporate sponsored censorship and suppression, we could end up in a similar situation.

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