- (AFP) -- Fast-evolving Internet and communications
technology is outpacing privacy laws and leaving a treasure trove of personal
data prey to government surveillance, a new report warned.
- The survey by the non-profit Center
for Democracy and Technology (CDT) appeared as debate rages over a domestic
wiretap program in the United States and government lawyers demand search
records held by firms like Google.
- Center for Democracy and Technology report
- "The gap between law and technology
is widening every day, and privacy is eroding," said Jim Dempsey,
the CDT policy director who authored the report.
- "What makes this even more troubling
is that most users of these new technologies don't realize they are putting
their privacy in jeopardy."
- Modern consumers live in an age when
web based e-mails pileup on services like Microsoft's Hotmail and Google's
Gmail, and all kinds of files from personal photos to bank, medical and
travel records are stored online.
- Few computer users realise however,
that web based e-mail is subject to much weaker protections than messages
stored on home computers.
- While the government needs a warrant,
issued by a judge, to search someone's home computer, it can access a person's
webmail account with only a subpoena, issued without judicial review.
- In another example, the ubiquitous cellphone
makes communication on the move easy -- but it has a downside, in that
it can be used theoretically by government agencies to pinpoint an individual's
- There are no existing laws laying out
explicit standards for government location tracking, so official use of
such technology is only controlled by an inadequate patchwork of laws and
precedents, the report said.
- Few people realise that privacy laws
drafted before, or in the early days of the technological revolution, do
not adequately cover new vaults of online data, the report warns.
- "The government complains that
new technology makes its job more difficult, but the fact is that digital
technology has vastly augmented the government's powers," the report
- "More information is more readily
available to government investigators than ever before," the report
- And it is not just the pace of change
that raises new privacy questions, the report added, citing new government
powers enshrined in the Patriot Act, designed to combat terrorism which
provide wider government powers.
- Copyright © 2006 Agence France