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Author Topic: Government/Authority Oversight
TinMan
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Since I didn't quite want to highjack other threads that were slightly off this topic, I thought I'd pose this here.

To discuss mirror situations:

a) A department store is having problems with anything from vagrants to break-ins and assaults in and around their premises. In order to enhance the safety of their customers, they install full-coverage survielance cameras, and a full 24-hour security staff to monitor them, and to also deal with the problems that do appear. Note that this requires surveilance of every single customer in the store.

b.) A government is having problems with anything from illegal immigrants to smuggling to terrorism in and around their borders. In order to enhance the safety of their citizens, they install full-coverage phone monitoring, and a full 24-hour security staff to monitor them, and to also deal with the problems that do appear. Note that this requires surveilance of every single citizen in the county.

Situation a) is so common that I would state that most people find this acceptable. What, exactly, is the non-objection to situation a) when there seems to be so much strenuous objection to situation b)?

The department store, on its premises, has almost equal authority as a government does on its citizens. To me, the parallel is clear, and accurate.

You simply cannot effectively catch problems beforehand without monitoring the vast majority of things going on. And, now, the paradigm has changed. You cannot let the terrorist commit the act, and then track him down like you would with a common criminal. A) he is already dead. b) The damage relative to the individual is enormous. These things have to be stopped beforehand (They always should have been in my opinion).

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Everard
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" What, exactly, is the non-objection to situation a) when there seems to be so much strenuous objection to situation b)?"

There are three differences:
1) The expectation of privacy. If I go into a grocery store, I expect to be in the public eye. If I have a private conversation on the phone from within my home, with a friend who is also within his home, I expect that no one is listening in. If I am within my home, I expect that no one is watching

2)Government power vs Whole Foods' power. The government can make my life miserable in hundreds of ways that a grocery store or outlet mall cannot.

3) Rule of law. The constitution says that the government can't tap my phones without probable cause, but it doesn't say that a private business can't monitor its property.

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The Drake
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I'll reprise what I've said before. I can avoid going to the store. I also know when I am being watched.

If the store hassles people that they think might have shoplifted based on the pattern of their walk through the store, they will eventually close down because no one will shop there.

The feedback mechanism on a store's intrusion is immediate and consequential. Does anyone remember the scandals that erupted when stores put surveillance in their changing rooms? Without telling people?

Now, assume that the store could cancel your credit card remotely, based on what they see you doing in the store, because it matched a pattern of behaviour typical of those using stolen credit cards? And that they wouldn't tell you about that, until you tried to use the card?

Already, data mining is being used by banks to freeze accounts that might be stolen ID. And if they have too many false positives, they will lose customers to banks with better technology, or less intrusive policies.

I can't shop around for the government of my choice, and if they throw me in jail, I can't unsubscribe to being an American.

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TinMan
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quote:

The expectation of privacy

And where does this little gem come from? You are guaranteed by the Constitution not to have your life unreasonably intruded upon. Being observed is not being intruded upon, as most people already tacitly agree upon with above example a). Being observed does absolutely nothing to intrude upon your normal life unless you have some psychosis about being observed in the first place.

quote:

I can avoid going to the store. I also know when I am being watched.

No you cant, unless you want to starve to death, or support yourself through survivalist or subsistence farming. No you dont always know when you are being watched. But then, why would it matter that you know you are being watched?

quote:

I can't shop around for the government of my choice, and if they throw me in jail, I can't unsubscribe to being an American

Accoring to the Wikipedia, as of 2006 there exist 191 United Nations member states. Sounds like you have plenty of governments to shop around for. As for unsubscribing to being an American, it's called changing your citizenship. Last I heard, you would not be shot or detained for doing so when you leave America. And no, that isn't an "America, love it or leave it" statement. It is a correction of an erroneous statement by you. Your wording makes it sound like you are trapped in a state which you cannot leave. This is pure fallacy. If we had a singular global government, I might be inclined to agree with you. As the current world situation stands, I do not.
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Everard
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"And where does this little gem come from? You are guaranteed by the Constitution not to have your life unreasonably intruded upon. Being observed is not being intruded upon,"

Yes, and its unreasonable to intrude upon me in my home, because I expect that no one is watching me there... its my private life. I expect, when I go out in public, that I am in the public eye. I may or may not hold myself to a different standard in public then in private... but I shouldn't have to wonder whether someone is peeking into my bedroom before I disrobe.

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Haggis
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quote:
Being observed is not being intruded upon, as most people already tacitly agree upon with above example a). Being observed does absolutely nothing to intrude upon your normal life unless you have some psychosis about being observed in the first place.

I then invite you to conspicously "observe" the bedroom window of a female neighbor over a period of time. You will shortly find exactly how observation is intrusion, courtesy of your local judicial system. During that time, you may also get to experience another definition of "intrusion".
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The Drake
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quote:
Accoring to the Wikipedia, as of 2006 there exist 191 United Nations member states. Sounds like you have plenty of governments to shop around for. As for unsubscribing to being an American, it's called changing your citizenship.
How many countries allow unrestricted immigration from the US? How many are even less free? I won't improve my surveillance situation by moving to China, Saudi Arabia, or Cuba. (And actually, I think I can be jailed for trying to go to some places - like Cuba - or at least after the fact.)

More importantly, however, if I don't know what the government is doing, how am I supposed to know to shop around?!!

Likewise, if I don't know what the government is doing, how am I supposed to petition the government to change its ways?

That's one of many reasons why I don't particularly care if the government sets up surveillance cameras in public. I know they are there, because it is generally posted - and certainly common knowledge when they are installed.

Would I care if they wanted to install cameras in my house? Hell yes. I'd raise the roof complaining about it - and I daresay most Americans would.

Would I care more if Comcast wanted to install cameras in my cable box, to make sure I'm not stealing HBO? Hell yes, and I'd be able to immediately cancel service and mail the cable box back to Comcast with a photocopy of my middle finger.

Now, what if Comcast hid the camera in the cable box behind the IR window for the remote control, and didn't tell anybody? Until a techie (probably trying to steal cable) opened the box and noted the imaging hardware. Then, politicians and journalists would likely be unanimously clobbering the airwaves with hatred for the offending company.

We can only wonder how strong a public outcry would be if that same sneaky camera had been asked for and paid for by the US Government. But I'm sure you'd find sufficiently more people arguing that the NSA was justified.

So let me turn the question around, and ask...

Why are some people willing to let the government do what they would never accept from a private company?

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livermeer kenmaile
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" a)The expectation of privacy

b) And where does this little gem come from? You are guaranteed by the Constitution not to have your life unreasonably intruded upon."

Expectations and guarantees are not synonymous. Furthermore, because what it means to be "unreasonably intruded upon" differs from individual to individual, we exert our expectations (through processes grounded in Constitutional foundations).

"Why are some people willing to let the government do what they would never accept from a private company?"

And after it has become acceptable for the government to do it, we can privatize it [Wink] Halliburton no-bids.

" a) I can avoid going to the store. I also know when I am being watched.

b) No you cant, unless you want to starve to death"

There ARE delivery services. (Hmmm... analyzing anonymous grocery receipts for terrorist activity...) Which reminds me, I no lnger patronize the Albertson's across the street from my house because they always ask me for my Albertson's ID or phone #. I go 4 blocks away to the store that takes me cash without making a profile of me as a consumer.

A tenet of Kenmeer's Basic Belief System: the vast majority of humans cannot mind their own business. This iunability makes it difficult for them to judge when the government is minding their business. *sigh* I remember when conservatives wanted LESS government.

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RickyB
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quote:
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The expectation of privacy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And where does this little gem come from?

Pitchforks and motha-fockin axes. You gonna fight on the State's side? Cause I WILL fight on my side. What's it gonna be, stranger?
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Gaoics79
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quote:
Why are some people willing to let the government do what they would never accept from a private company?
I'll state the obvious answer: because the government says it is doing what it is doing for the purpose of catching terrorists, and most people are willing to tolerate some intrusion into their private lives if it will reduce the risk of being blown up the next time they go to the market.

If you're alluding to the latest NSA scandal, I'd point out that collecting a few phone numbers is not equivalent to putting video cameras in peoples' homes.

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philnotfil
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Oh, well as long as they say it is for the war on terror it must be OK.
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The Drake
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Absolutely not equivalent, but often it can be instructive to consider the limit as x approaches infinity. It helps to plot the curve to its natural conclusions.

Warrantless sneak and peak is further along that plot - and you know that the patriot act allows more of that with less oversight. Collecting phone call logs helps generate more targets for sneak and peak intrusion.

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DonaldD
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It never ceases to amaze me how the invocation of "terrorist" can be used to justify (or attemnpt to justify) just about anything.

Thankfully, I've never heard the term used as a justification for rape, but time will tell...

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The Drake
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The terrorists could be hiding bombs in their orifices? Excuse me, ma'am, I'm going to have to search that...
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A. Alzabo
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quote:
Thankfully, I've never heard the term used as a justification for rape, but time will tell...
Actually I've hard just that justification from some of the more egregious defenders of the hijinks (including forced sodomy) at Abu Ghraib. "C'mon, they're terrorists!"

"Terrorist": it's the authoritarian government's version of "smurf".

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livermeer kenmaile
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"Pitchforks and motha-fockin axes."

One of the things that delighted me when I was reading up on early Zionism in Palestine was tales of the proud peasantry of Israel. Proto-kibbutzers.

It intrigues me that there was a widespread Peasant Movement throughout eastern Europe during the same period (pre-WWII).

You peasant, you [Wink] You fire the matzoh cannon and I'll work the mom's apple pie trebuchet...

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Mormegil
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I do object to being watched while in a store. I don't care if a store detective watches me, but on camera I can't look back.

Also, I have a much bigger problem being *recorded* than being watched. You expect people to be able to see you when you go out in public. But to be able to zoom in and *examine* you is not something we can do to others. If you owned a store and walked up to a customer and stood 2 feet away and just gave them a nice long appraisal, they wouldn't think much of it, would they? But with cameras we can do that and keep it and do who knows what with it.

I don't need photos of me scratching my nose to show up on the internet, making it look like I'm picking it. If someone sees it, fine, I expect that since I'm in public. But to take a permanent record and provide it to people who weren't there in the first place? Bad. Not that I'm that worried about myself, because I'm nobody.

But then I've tried to be nobody. I've had skills I might have put to use but it would have meant (if successful, and no guarantee of that) being more "in the public eye" than I would want. I wonder how many contributions to our culture might have been made but were not because would-be contributors didn't want to give up their privacy and be "celebrities" stalked by papparazi and so forth.

However, like others have said, this is orders of magnitude different than being watched everywhere I go, and the power of each individual store is nothing at all like the power of the government.

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
Also, I have a much bigger problem being *recorded* than being watched. You expect people to be able to see you when you go out in public. But to be able to zoom in and *examine* you is not something we can do to others. If you owned a store and walked up to a customer and stood 2 feet away and just gave them a nice long appraisal, they wouldn't think much of it, would they? But with cameras we can do that and keep it and do who knows what with it.
As I work in retail, I can tell you exactly what they do with it. You very rarely know you're being stolen from at the time it happens. Most of the time, you have to go back and review the recordings to figure out who it was. Also, when prosecuting a shoplifter, the video recording is very important as evidence.
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velcro
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quote:
The department store, on its premises, has almost equal authority as a government does on its citizens.
I beg to differ.

I own a store. I can give discounts to my friends. I can kick out someone who I don't like. At my sole discretion, I can change anything I want, without consulting my customers. I am the owner for life if I choose, and I will pass it on to my children. It is my property.

A government exists to serve the people. All must be treated equally, regardless of how friendly they are to the government. The government can not change anything substantial without approval of the people. The government is only there as long as the people choose it to be.

If the government starts acting like a store owner, that means it thinks it owns the country. It most emphatically does not.

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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by TinMan:
Since I didn't quite want to highjack other threads that were slightly off this topic, I thought I'd pose this here.

To discuss mirror situations:

a) A department store is having problems with anything from vagrants to break-ins and assaults in and around their premises. In order to enhance the safety of their customers, they install full-coverage survielance cameras, and a full 24-hour security staff to monitor them, and to also deal with the problems that do appear. Note that this requires surveilance of every single customer in the store.

b.) A government is having problems with anything from illegal immigrants to smuggling to terrorism in and around their borders. In order to enhance the safety of their citizens, they install full-coverage phone monitoring, and a full 24-hour security staff to monitor them, and to also deal with the problems that do appear. Note that this requires surveilance of every single citizen in the county.

Situation a) is so common that I would state that most people find this acceptable. What, exactly, is the non-objection to situation a) when there seems to be so much strenuous objection to situation b)?

The department store, on its premises, has almost equal authority as a government does on its citizens. To me, the parallel is clear, and accurate.

You simply cannot effectively catch problems beforehand without monitoring the vast majority of things going on. And, now, the paradigm has changed. You cannot let the terrorist commit the act, and then track him down like you would with a common criminal. A) he is already dead. b) The damage relative to the individual is enormous. These things have to be stopped beforehand (They always should have been in my opinion).

It's simple. The department store has no authority. They can't hand their surveillance information over to another departmetnt store or anyone except the police, and then only when someone's been arrested. And they can't use that surveillance data to do anything except ask you to give back the stuff and leave, or ring the police and hope they arrive before you go home. And they can't change the rules about how they use that information and who they can give it to, because they're not the folks that make the rules.

The government, on the other hand, has plenty of potential for abuse. It can change the rules at an time so the department monitoring you can give the information over to pretty much anyone. It can hang onto records for years. It can use the surveillance data as evidence in charges completely unrelated to the problem that they're allegedly trying to stop with the surveillance program. It can keep track of your political affiliations and keep tabs on people in perfectly legal political movements just because they have unpopular views.

And it can see infinitely more. You're not likely to get up to many private or potentially embarassing things in WalMart. You're not going to have hot gay sex in the frozen food section of our supermarket, or hire a prostitute at McDonalds, or just sing really really badly at the top of your lungs waiting in line at an ATM in the mall, or watch kinky german fetish videos while you're trying to return unwanted christmas gifts. You're going to do all these things at home though, or in motel rooms, or in other private places. If everyone's under surveillance and they know it, its gonna add a bizarre paranoid twist to their everyday lives. And regardless of whether they know they're under surveillance or not, the mere fact that their private lives are being recorded means that they're incredibly vulnerable to blackmail from government officials who feel like breaking the law.

And all of that is pretty much why cameras and plainclothes security trying to monitor everyone in a mall doesn't seem like a big deal, while cameras and plainclothes police trying to monitor everyone in a state without due cause is a hellaciously bad idea.

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TinMan
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quote:

It's simple. The department store has no authority. They can't hand their surveillance information over to another departmetnt store or anyone except the police, and then only when someone's been arrested.

Then you might want to read up on the infamous MIT Blackjack team. One of the main reasons they were caught is because a top private investigative firm sells photos and information on various "suspected cheaters" to the casinos, and the casions use these to deny access to their property. Entirely legal, at least in Nevada. I think the use of these has slightly changed in Atlantic City.

quote:

And they can't use that surveillance data to do anything except ask you to give back the stuff and leave, or ring the police and hope they arrive before you go home. And they can't change the rules about how they use that information and who they can give it to, because they're not the folks that make the rules.

Actually, at least when I worked in security at a major department store, we were perfectly within our rights to detain (for a specified time period, usually until the police got there) someone when they had been caught stealing from a register. (Ah, the good old college days) Again, laws may have changed since then, but we not only could do that, we did do that. Unless you state that I was employed by a major department chain to perform illegal activities.

Finally, you can't be blackmailed if your not doing anything wrong or shameful. That's the real bottom line.

As well, you must remember that this "camera everywhere" thing applies to the government officials as well. You can go back and review everything that they do as well. How likely is it that a government official will try to blackmail you when his every move is also under scrutiny? If it's not equal, public access, then yes it's a bad thing. But that's true of anything from food stuffs to phone service. It's not inherent in surveilance.

I still haven't seen a valid reason for privacy other than some vast big brother conspiracy thing. That, and the fact that it makes you feel all "oogly" to be looked at. Does anyone actually have a valid reason for privacy?

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Mariner
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quote:
Yes, and its unreasonable to intrude upon me in my home, because I expect that no one is watching me there... its my private life. I expect, when I go out in public, that I am in the public eye. I may or may not hold myself to a different standard in public then in private... but I shouldn't have to wonder whether someone is peeking into my bedroom before I disrobe.
Everard, the information you are creating within the privacy of your house is leaving your house. Thus, isn't this irrelevent? You may be having a conversation within your house, but that data is being sent all around the place - both public and private. And I think it's been pretty well established that you don't necessarily have absolute privacy in your own home if whatever you're doing has an effect outside your home. You can't privately listen to a heavy metal album at full volume at 2 AM, for instance, unless you live in the middle of nowhere. And although you can expect privacy disrobing in your bathroom, you can't expect it disrobing on your driveway. Likewise, just because your intended recipient is in his home as well doesn't necessarily mean anything. If you reply to me and me only, you can't expect other Ornery members or lurkers to not read your post.

Of course, you could easily reply stating that your private home conversation with your friend can't be legally viewed by anyone the phone lines pass by, and that may be true. But you are still privately communicating with your friend through a third party - the phone and the phone companies. Like it or not, they're getting that information, so it's not private. What they do with that information is between you and them and the contract you have, but it's still outside your home and outside your control. Thus, you can't claim absolute privacy.

quote:
So let me turn the question around, and ask...

Why are some people willing to let the government do what they would never accept from a private company?

But they do. We accept that our phone companies will have complete information of who we called and how much time we spent on the phone, and they're not even going after terrorists! We accept that our electric company will walk all over our lawns and peer intently at the electric meter on our houses. We have no problems knowing that some nerd in a cubicle somewhere has the ability to read all the emails we sent or know exactly what unsavory materials we've downloaded over the internet. We don't get alarmed when our computer automatically downloads and installs software that these companies claim will protect it from viruses (Oh, well as long as they say it is for the war on viruses it must be OK). And most people accept this without bothering to read through their contract with these companies to check their privacy policies.

And as for the mocking of jasonr's statement that people are willing to accept reasonable limits on their freedoms for the war on terrorism, oh puhleez. "It never ceases to amaze me how the invocation of "terrorist" can be used to justify (or attemnpt to justify) just about anything. Thankfully, I've never heard the term used as a justification for rape, but time will tell..." What fallacy is that? Slippery slope? Straw man? Whatever, it's just stupid. Especially since I'm 99% sure EVERYONE here accepts reasonable limitations on their liberties for security. Or are you all out marching against the ability for police to obtain warrants to search the homes of suspected criminals?

[ May 19, 2006, 03:11 PM: Message edited by: Mariner ]

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by Mariner:
quote:
Why are some people willing to let the government do what they would never accept from a private company?
But they do. We accept that our phone companies will have complete information of who we called and how much time we spent on the phone, and they're not even going after terrorists! We accept that our electric company will walk all over our lawns and peer intently at the electric meter on our houses.
Good examples. So I guess I'm confused. It's not like there's a lack of stories about people worked up into a frenzy about private corporations invading their privacy (Sony rootkit anyone?).

Maybe its just a matter of expectations, and the "Surprise! You've been watched!" effect.

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velcro
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quote:
You're not going to have hot gay sex in the frozen food section of our supermarket, or hire a prostitute at McDonalds, or just sing really really badly at the top of your lungs waiting in line at an ATM in the mall, or watch kinky german fetish videos while you're trying to return unwanted christmas gifts. You're going to do all these things at home though.
Have you been peeking through my windows again?

[Smile]

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Everard
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" But you are still privately communicating with your friend through a third party - the phone and the phone companies. Like it or not, they're getting that information, so it's not private"

I've addressed this to some degree in other threads. Essentially, I argue the constitution protects this... communication when it is not face to face goes through a third party. Whether it be mail, a phone call, or telegraph. But that doesn't mean the communication isn't private. If you are an "intent of the framers" sort, there were several large blow ups about people's mail being violated while it was en route from the colonies, to england, in the 1770's, involving prominent people, including Benjamin Franklin, and General Gage. Because of the significance of those events, they would have been in people's minds when the fourth amendment was written, and the fourth amendment would have been geared to protect the sanctity of communication. Many of the delegates at the continental congress in fact talked about the sanctity of communication.

If you are not a framers intent sort, the fourth amendment reads that my effects shall be protected from being seized. It doesn't say that the effects have to be in my possession, only that they be mine.

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Mariner
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Drake, I'm sure the surprise is part of it. I'd say the other part is that people are getting a service out of this intrusion of their privacy (just as people think they're getting a service - better protection against terrorist attacks - out of this NSA surveillance). I think the best analogy is Norton/Microsoft/Whoever downloading updates and silently scanning your computer to protect it from viruses. Most people haven't a clue what they're doing, or how to tell if they're abusing this disruption of privacy. But they allow it anyway.

Actually, I just remembered another example that completely negates your "Why are some people willing to let the government do what they would never accept from a private company?" statement. Remember this thread?

quote:
The Chicago Police Department is warning officers their cell phone records are available to anyone -- for a price. Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts.
Now, I haven't been following the NSA story very well, but it seems like that's the same data, right? The only differences are:

The NSA is getting aggregate data and so can't tell what you specifically are calling unless a flag comes up.

The phone companies are giving the records to the NSA for, um, patriotic reasons or something, whereas here they're doing it for money.

Only the government can get the data for security reasons. Anyone can get your data for blackmail, stalking, or any number of reasons.

Sounds to me like selling your phone records was a dozen times worse. Where was the outcry? Where was the constant front page stories? How did you fight this? I hate to single you out specifically, but I distinctly remembered your post on that matter.

quote:
I will sell my phone records to anyone who wants them for $25 per month.

GPS records of my location are available by subscription for $49.99 per month, $99.99 per month for a live stream.

Reliable GPS records of an individual's location would yield a great benefit in justice, since it would prevent wrongful convictions.

Again, I hate to single you out specifically, but why was that deserving of a joking response while the government doing it was "unaccepable"?

Everard, I understand what you're saying, but shouldn't that mean that we can all sue the phone companies now? If the expectation of the third party keeping things under wrap is so explicit, then surely this is a breach of contract, is it not? I'd think AT&T and the like would have surely considered that before they handed any material over. I'm not a legal or constitution expert, but I can't imagine these giant companies would leave themselves so open for lawsuits if this is the case.

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livermeer kenmaile
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"If the government starts acting like a store owner, that means it thinks it owns the country. It most emphatically does not."

Brilliantly stated.

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The Drake
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You got me Mariner, sort of.

Note that in my example, I get something of value for my records. I get to make the choice if I sell them or not. Much like you state that people accept the NSA program more, if they are of the opinion that they are receiving something of value.

The other part is that I don't mean ME, when I talk about how people are more accepting of government instead of corporate intrusion. I consider lots of things unacceptable when the government does them, and acceptable when a private individual or company does them.

My query was to try and understand why other people have it the other way around, and you did help answer that question for me. It seems like the perception of value and the perception of harm is crucial to a person's reactions.

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livermeer kenmaile
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"Finally, you can't be blackmailed if your not doing anything wrong or shameful. That's the real bottom line."

The concept of "wrong" is higly subjective. Much of legality is based on such subjective notions. Sodomy laws, for example. The McCarthy with hunt was one big governmental blackmail.

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Funean
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The existence of actual wrongdoing is less vital to the success of a blackmail operation than the ability of the blackmailer to convince relevant persons of some purported wrongdoing.
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livermeer kenmaile
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Thanks, Fun, for saying what my bran is too tired to put into words.
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livermeer kenmaile
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Tired bran... I need more mental fiber in my diet?
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Funean
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That only leads to verbal diarrhea.
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livermeer kenmaile
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"We must aggregate our fecal matter."
The Flying Brothers Karamazov

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