FISA Amendments Act Is Way Worse for Privacy Than Title III

Advocates for renewal of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) often argue that the statute poses no more harm to the privacy of innocent Americans than does the Wiretap Act, also known as Title III. After all, when FBI agents are tapping a suspected drug courier’s phones, his friends or mother may also call. How is the FAA any different?

Actually, there are many important differences between Title III, the FAA and even traditional FISA intercept orders. These differences mean that FAA is far more intrusive than Title III and poses a categorically different threat to the privacy of innocent Americans.

The FISA Amendments Act Authorizes Warrantless Spying on Americans

Next week, the lame duck Congress will take up the issue of whether to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008. The House of Representatives passed a five year extention, but during the the floor debate on that bill, lawmakers demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding about how the FAA affects the privacy of Americans on American soil.

Five Nonobvious Ways Seattle Is Wired

I recently moved from San Francisco to Seattle.  Among my concerns were (a) weather, (b) Mexican food, and (c) the technology sector.  There is a sea of clouds outside my office right now and the best Mexican food in town ("El Camion") parks behind a Safeway in Ballard.  But let me tell you: Seattle has not disappointed on technology.

Even setting aside the obvious (Microsoft, Amazon, Nintendo, the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, etc.), this city is wired.  Here are five of my favorite examples:

Fair Use Prospers on Campus

Last week's decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust -- upholding the Mass Digitization Project (MPD) -- was a big victory for fair use. The MDP is a project where university libraries and Google have together digitized over 10 million books to allow for full-text searches, preservation, and access for people with print disabilities. When the Authors Guild sued for copyright infringement, HathiTrust defended the suit by arguing that the MDP is fair use.

Judge Baer upheld the MDP. His decision recognizes that the project is a massive public good: it is a tool for scholarship, prevents the loss of our cultural heritage, and provides unparalleled access for the visually impaired. Significantly, he found that these educational purposes are "transformational" in a way that supports fair use.

A Tool Without a Handle

This is a short essay to introduce three topics I’ll be exploring in various ways, including writing, talking, and reading:
1) How metaphor powerfully shapes the beliefs we hold about the Internet - and is used by advocates seeking to shape the beliefs of others.
2) How the “cyberspace’ metaphor has outlived much of its usefulness, causes us to focus attention on the wrong things, and inaccurately describes how people use information technology.

The Industry of Bad Feelings

Some weeks ago I wrote a post, The Industry of Good Feelings, about Silicon Valley's unique esprit de corps – how it has long been the kind of place where industrial rivals say nice things about one another and even openly use one another's products.

At the end of that post, however, I noted that the spirit I described might be eroding. I wrote that I was worried intellectual property law "may be playing a role in making Silicon Valley less about hat tipping and more about fist clenching."


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