Monday, November 12, 2007

Privacy Rights: Trust government?

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD

Lowered expectations seem to be the order of this day in this world. Take the case of Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. In speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kerr said that Americans can't expect to have privacy, because people give up so much information online already. "Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that." The message is clear: Give up.
Kerr and those who buy into his line of thinking need to know that choosing the type of info one enters into MySpace (which, apparently, has many 99-year-old users) or Google is not comparable to the government sifting through one's private records and listening in on one's phone conversations without going through the proper channels.

Even more laughable is the assertion that we should just trust the government and businesses to safeguard their information. But how could we, when we see that Yahoo handed over the user records of human rights activist Shi Tao -- now serving a 10-year prison sentence -- to the Chinese government? Or when we hear that U.S. phone companies secretly complied with similar requests from the Bush administration? And what about all those government laptops with private information that go missing?

President Bush vows to veto a bill that doesn't give immunity to companies that hand over private records to the government. We hope that the Democratic Congress stands up to such blatant, wide-reaching violations of our privacy.