Feds Snoop on Social-Network Accounts Without Warrants_Featured_, Big Brother Saturday, September 29th, 2012
Justice Department report shows real-time surveillance targeting social networks and e-mail providers jumped 80 percent from 2010 to 2011. The ACLU says current law doesn’t protect Americans’ privacy.
Federal police are increasingly gaining real-time access to Americans’ social-network accounts — such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter — without obtaining search warrants, newly released documents show.
The numbers are dramatic: live interception requests made by the U.S. Department of Justice to social-networking sites and e-mail providers jumped 80 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Documents the ACLU released today show police are using a 1986 law intended to tell police what phone numbers were dialed for far more invasive surveillance: monitoring of whom specific social-network users communicate with, what Internet addresses they’re connecting from, and perhaps even “likes” and “+1″‘s.
The ACLU hopes the disclosure of the documents it sued to obtain under the Freedom of Information Act will persuade Congress to tighten the requirements for police to intercept “noncontent” data — a broad category that excludes e-mail messages and direct messages. The current legal standard “allows the government to use these powerful surveillance tools with very little oversight in place to safeguard Americans’ privacy,” says Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney.
It might work. On Tuesday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would require police to get warrants to access Americans’ e-mail and track their cell phones. Last week, however, senators delayed a vote on a similar bill after law enforcement groups objected.