The Electric Frontier Foundation is warning that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance powers through Section 702 of FISA violate First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly as well as the 4th Amendment right to privacy. The 4th Amendment right to privacy is often invoked in overreaches regarding data mining procedures used by intelligence and often corporate interests and other groups practice equally worrying privacy practices. Big Data becomes a more prevalent force as the 21st century progresses. Predictive AI, automation and “smart cities” will be ubiquitous soon. The implications of the threat to the 1st and 4th Amendments as a result of the steady creep of rights violations from the private and public sector should pose a great concern to anyone interested in preserving free speech.
The NSA’s Section 702 allows for continued data mining and extraction of copious amounts of communications information. In addition to this, the tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple have demonstrated an eagerness to sell out their user’s privacy again and again. The cloud has become a ubiquitous panopticon, ever hovering and hoovering up every bit of personal data you enter knowingly or unknowingly into it. Android records and correlates your GPS data without your permission. Android phones also occasionally record and stores snippets of the audio online when they hear a conversation. “The better to understand your speech patterns,” their subtext for this creepy habit. Knowing this urges some to seek the shelter of VPN’s and P2P servers like TOR, but some just choose to spurn unpopular, sensitive or controversial material for fear of that data being shared, used or made public one day.
“As our society has moved online, our associations have become digital in nature. Signing up for a membership or learning about an advocacy group often happens over a website or app. Members of modern political groups coordinate donations, activities, and information over social networks, email, and websites. When the NSA—either by itself or by working with corporate “partners”—collects the digital communications and browsing the history of countless individuals, it’s also obtaining records of innocent Americans visiting activism websites, becoming members of advocacy groups, and coordinating social movements. EFF also raised this argument in our case against the mass telephone records collected by the NSA (substantially narrowed in 2015) First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v NSA.
The surveillance of our communications systems, and thereby the surveillance of our communications, infringes on the very rights of private assembly upheld by the Supreme Court in 1958.