1. Shrinking Privacy Protections
a. Everyone Else Turns Over Information About You.
i. Increasing Amounts of Our Personal Information Is Held by Others.
Even before USAPA's passage, Americans found their privacy increasingly eroded through the stockpiling, aggregating, selling and spilling of their personal information by third parties. The government5 has long argued, and several courts have accepted, the proposition that if you reveal this information to one private entity for one purpose (like an ISP storing your e-mail or a mortgage company offering you a loan), you no longer have a Fourth Amendment right to protect the information from unfocused, unchecked law enforcement fishing expeditions.
The danger of this is clearly demonstrated by events in recent memory. In the 1970s Americans discovered that the FBI had maintained dossiers on more than a million of us, including Martin Luther King and Truman Capote, and used the information to harass and threaten innocent people.6 Yet the information available to J. Edgar Hoover and his associates is nothing like the range of information about Americans that exists now and can be easily collected and organized now. Some examples of the increase in third-parties holding once-private information include:
Correspondence Contents. Letters written on paper were traditionally stored in the home or business. The post office neither kept nor stored your letters. To be able to read them, the government normally had to get a warrant to search your home or office by proving "probable cause" that you had done something wrong.
Now, an increasing number of Americans store their correspondence on computers at their ISPs where it can be obtained by law enforcement on much lower standards than those required for a physical search of your home, depending on whether the e-mail has been opened by and how old it is. And while you'd usually know whether someone had invaded your home and rummaged through your... [continues]
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