Last week, the Federal Communications Commission came a step closer to allowing federal law-enforcement agencies to use the Internet to tap into your e-mail and voice messages. By giving the high-tech industry another year to come up with a legal way to monitor the packet-mode communications used for the Internet, the FCC seems ready to widen the government’s investigative power in much the same way it did for telecommunications.
Tapping Into New Technology
Telecommunication companies must comply with a new set of snooping regulations by June 30. Court orders will now enable law enforcement officials to listen in and track down individuals that use call-forwarding, call-waiting or conference calls. They will also be able to trace numbers even after a connection is made to a long-distance provider using a toll-free number.
The government believes that it needs such additional electronic surveillance to keep tabs on foreign terrorists and organized crime that threatens the security of the U.S.
Potential Loss Of Freedom
Some privacy advocates strongly disagree. They point out that the foundation of the freedom enjoyed in the United States and the rest of the free world is based on an individual’s right to privacy. They also contend that throughout history, totalitarian regimes have cunningly eliminated the freedom of speech by cloaking their methods in the guise of national security.
In addition, they fear that without the necessary restraints, such ability to tap into an individual’s private e-mail and computer hard drive would be tantamount to making the private life of every citizen in the U.S. an open book.
Big Brother Is Here
Speaking of books, I still remember the effect that George Orwell’s “1984” had on me when I was in high school. The specter of having an omnipresent “Big Brother” watching every move I made sent chills up my spine. But little did I realize how prophetic Orwell would be. By the few strokes of a pen, the FCC could make each of us the new Winstons of this brave new world.
I don’t think there should be a compromise, if it means law-abiding citizens will be stripped of their privacy in the process. I think it’s time for the public to send a resounding “no” to those who support measures that allow its government to spy on its citizens. Deluging your representatives in Congress with e-mails of outrage is one way to make your voice heard.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.