USA Today reported today that Microsoft is suing the federal government over spying on users data and documents. The government has made thousands of requests to search Microsoft users’ information – ordering Microsoft to keep searches a secret from the users. Microsoft believes this violates customers Fourth Amendment rights. If the government wanted to go through similar physical records at a person’s home or business, the person would know about the warrant.
While I am not a fan of the Microsoft monopoly (and I hate Windows 8), I applaud their efforts to guard the privacy of people using cell phones, the internet and the “cloud”. I am a supporter of law enforcement and want a safer world. But I am even more concerned about privacy.
It is becoming more and more difficult to maintain privacy, from unwanted phone solicitations to identity thieves. There are legitimate reasons why law-abiding citizens want to keep their lives private. For me, it is mostly about maintaining a relatively peaceful life. The lower your profile, the fewer surveys, pleas for money and scams come your way, the less junk mail you get. This applies to the physical world as well as the digital world.
People might jokingly or innocently use a word or phrase that intelligence agencies are watching for. That doesn’t make them a criminal or terrorist. Federal or local law enforcement should have to use their old-school investigative techniques to check out such a person before delving into the person’s personal – and maybe encrypted – data. And the person should always be informed if law enforcement is going to take that next step.
We are continually told this is a safety issue and law-abiding citizens should have nothing to hide. But that does not mean we need to allow government to see everything. The federal government has not been able to prevent hackers from breaking into government computer systems, from the Office of Personnel Management to the Pentagon. The feds have allowed the personal and financial safety of thousands of citizens to be put at risk. (They gave federal employees affected by the OPM hack free credit monitoring – whoopee! That only notifies you after there’s a problem.) I am also concerned about the mandated nationalized health records system. The federal government cannot be trusted to keep our personal information safe. Microsoft is doing a much better job of that. Maybe the feds should get Microsoft to help them with security instead of asking Microsoft to help spy on Americans.