Why I don’t travel for major holidays or How the FBI stole Christmas (and our privacy)

Bruce Schneier posted an essay he wrote on Surveillance and Oversight over on his blog.  He compares the FBI’s actions over a potential terrorist threat during Christmas 2003 to the response to a potential riot by the Rotterdam police force.  He illustrates how the FBI’s lack of judicial oversight coupled with FISA warrants and national security letters leads to its ability to consume massive amounts of data about people without their consent and knowledge.

I used to say, it didn’t really matter what the government collected about me as I wasn’t that interesting.  But at some point, something just snapped inside, and I have become fiercely protective of my data and distrustful of the government’s ability to do the right thing with that data.  I am still not that interesting, but that doesn’t mean I want the FBI hoovering up bits of me from hotels, credit card companies, airlines, and libraries.

Okay so we don’t have an explicit Constitutional right to privacy.  The Supreme Court’s ruling have help establish privacy as a basic human right.  We certainly don’t have an explicit Constitutional right to anonymity.  Yes, there are cases around various aspects of anonymity, but nothing overly definitive and nothing explicit.  It would be interesting for someone to write a history of anonymity.  I’d love to see a time-line of when we lost our ability to be anonymous citizens, tourists, and customers.

As Turkey Day approaches, let us be thankful for for what privacy we have, that there are people still interested in our digital and personal freedoms, and that you paid cash for that turkey.

Ian Glazer

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