With the revelation of the PRISM program this month, I have been racking my brain trying to figure out HOW the government can look at all of the computer and cloud data without a warrant. It seems a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. It turns out... The government is a bunch of sneaky bastards. They made it legal by defining data ownership in the Patriot Act.
First of all in Section 217, permits government interception of the "communications of a computer trespasser" if the owner of a "protected computer" authorized that surveillance. The law's definition of "protected computer" includes systems "used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication." What does that mean? Well, if your computer is hooked up to the internet, it can be used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication. Essentially, if you have ever used google, or even read this blog, you are engaging in interstate or foreign communication. Blogger is part of a cloud of computers based all over the world. Therefore, your computer is a "Protected Computer," and therefore has authorized surveillance. Neat, huh?
Now, they also go one further and say that the owner of the network or computer owns the data traveling through the computer or network at the moment the data is there. Sounds reasonable doesn't it? If I have a word document that sits on my computer, that data is mine. But, what if I sent that word document to SkyDrive, or email it to a buddy? Well, then that document's data is transferred over the internet network of computers and networks. No sweat right? BOOOOOOO!!! The Internet is NOT any one private company. The internet was set up by the US government, and the US government still owns something like 5 of the major DNS sites, as well as some of the networks that your data flows through. IF the owner of the network owns the data in their network, then, as your data passes through the government networks, the government owns your data. They don't need a warrant to capture their own data.
Very very very sneaky. Very smart. Very dangerous. The bulk of the "spying" program is based on the definition of data ownership in the Patriot Act. I think it is way way WAY past time that we get rid of this abomination of legislation.