Historically, ISPs have readily handed over subscriber info to ‘authorities’ for the asking – no waiting for a warrant or such silly concepts as ‘due process’.
Subscribers had no choice in the matter: if you wanted to hook up to the internet, the pipeline was controlled by ISPs who all placed submissiveness to authorities above protecting the civil liberties of their subscribers. Their subscription contracts made this clear – either waive your civil liberties or get your internet service from somebody else!
Except that this condition was in all the ISPs contracts, so that there was nobody else to go to!
So much for ‘free markets’… When all the terms of service were – at least, in this respect – almost identical, there was no consumer choice: no way to vote with your dollar.
When civil libertarians and privacy watchdogs pointed out how these ‘industry practices’ abrogate civil liberties of the consumers and that it may, in fact, be illegal, legislators quickly passed laws to permit it.
This, in effect, permits the ISPs to share content of your email (this might be a good time to check out HushMail), your web-surfing history – heck, they can even install key-loggers and pass all that information on to agents of ‘the State’. Expectation of privacy? What is this ‘privacy’ thing – this word no longer exist in the dictionary!
This is about to change. If Nick Merrill has anything to say about it, that is!
From CNET News:
‘Merrill, 39, who previously ran a New York-based Internet provider, told CNET that he’s raising funds to launch a national “non-profit telecommunications provider dedicated to privacy, using ubiquitous encryption” that will sell mobile phone service, for as little as $20 a month, and Internet connectivity.
The ISP would not merely employ every technological means at its disposal, including encryption and limited logging, to protect its customers. It would also — and in practice this is likely more important — challenge government surveillance demands of dubious legality or constitutionality.’
Which is the thing we truly need!
So, some might say, what about the ‘baddies’? What about organized crime or terrorists or child pornographers? They will be the first to want to take advantage of this, would they not?
Of course: but that is why we have the police forces. It is their job to ferret these ‘baddies’ out: but, with great power comes great responsibility.
In the case of the police, this responsibility is checked by judicial oversight. Sure, it is more legwork – but we know that humans nature is always the weakest link in the chain, and it precisely because of human nature that these checks and balances have been instituted, it is to make sure power is not abused that due process must be followed. Knowing the police are not taking shortcuts will even make the public trust them more, making their jobs easier, instead of the growing distrust people have that police and/or other ‘authorities’ will abuse their position to our detriment.
When agents of the State are permitted to circumvent judicial oversight and what we consider to be ‘due process’ – whether by relaxing the standards so that this becomes ‘standard’ and ‘accepted’ practice (like government agents routinely asking for – and receiving – private information about someone from a third party without judicial oversight) or by passing laws that reduce the integrity of what constitutes ‘due process’ (oh, like, say, ‘The Patriot Act’), we all loose!
I, for one, escaped from a life in a police state. It pains me greatly so see our society move – slowly, but definitely – towards the type of state which I escaped from.
So – civil-liberties-mided, customer-privacy-focused ISP providers: COME ON! WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!