"More than machinery, we need humanity."
As you may have heard…yesterday the Supreme Court delivered a 5-4 decision in the case known as Clapper v. Amnesty International USA. The lawsuit had challenged an element of the FISA Amendments Act, which (according to the ACLU [full press release here]) “authorizes the National Security Agency to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international emails and phone calls without identifying its targets to any court.”
So did the 5 (the majority) decide that the NSA must go to a court first to authorize their activity? Did the 5 strike down warrantless wiretapping? Of course they did not. Actually, what the Supreme Court (5 of its members anyways) did was say that those bringing the challenge did not have standing because “they cannot prove that surveillance of their communications is “certainly impending.”” And who are these groups without standing? They include: Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, The Nation, PEN American Center, and the Service Employees International Union..
According to the ACLU: “The government claimed that the plaintiffs should not be able to sue without first showing they have actually been monitored under the program. The government had previously argued that for national security reasons it could not disclose the identities of those who had been monitored.” Or to put it another way: they could not sue because they can’t prove they were monitored and they can’t prove that they were monitored because for “national security reasons” the government doesn’t have to reveal the people it’s monitoring.
If that sounds worrisome you should keep that opinion to yourself unless you want to start pondering if the government is monitoring you too. But don’t worry, if they are monitoring you, you’ll never know! Thanks Supreme Court majority!
But fret not! It’s not just the government who might be keeping an eye on you. Your Internet provider is doing it as well!
As Gawker reports: The Copyright Alert System is about to go into effect meaning that major Internet companies including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon will be able to come after you for perceived (or actual) illegal downloading. The way it works (Gawker): “content owners like the RIAA (for movies) and MPAA (for movies) will monitor peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing sites like BitTorrent for their own content. Once these content owners notice a copy of say, Bridesmaids available for illegal download, the owner will collect the IP addresses of users sharing the file (you) and tattle on you to your internet provider.”
It remains a bit unclear as to what will actually happen if they catch somebody downloading copyrighted content. It seems that it will begin with a series of warnings that will grow in insistence as a person continues to download. After that sixth warning a person’s Internet provider may be able to slow down or temporarily suspend a person’s connection, though it is unlikely (as of now) that a person will be exiled from the Internet forever. It remains unclear how serious this will really be…but keep in mind this is just a start.
I don’t want to wade into the debate about the ethics of downloading copyrighted content right now, but the one point that should be made here is: your activity online is being watched (you already knew that, I hope). Now it may seem like standard issue paranoia to wonder if the government is watching you, but at least you now know without any doubt that your Internet provider is watching you.
So…downloaded anything good lately?