If Congress suddenly passed a law requiring all citizens to carry tracking devices that monitored their movements and snooped into their private communications 24/7, the outcry would be huge.
But as a report in the New York Times shows, that has pretty much happened on its own, without Congress or most of the rest of us noticing.
Last year, cellphone carriers gave officials text messages, cellphone locations and other private information 1.3 million times. Because a single request can involve multiple phone users, the actual number of citizens who were tracked undoubtedly was far higher. And there’s every reason to believe the number will keep growing exponentially unless government acts.
With no reliable safeguards in place, the possibilities for abuse are limitless. And because government can store the information indefinitely, no one who carries a cellphone regularly can feel his or her privacy is secure.
Big Brother should have had it this good.
If Congress can’t snap out of its gridlock to do something about this, state governments should act. Law enforcement must be able to do its job, but privacy rights can’t be trampled in the process.
Chicago Sun-Times (July 10)