Sunday, August 12, 2012

No Recourse for Illegal Behaviour?

Recently the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that if the government spies on its citizens, citizens have no resource.  The same court also ruled that a warrant is not required for utility records.

The meters in question could report data in sub-minute intervals, allowing an analyst to determine when the house is empty, when people come home, and whether or not the occupants use too more electricity than their neighbors.  More troubling that the meter data is the accounting data "such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, account information, as well as credit or debit card and checking information" 

The court also said customers had no reasonable expectation of privacy under the so-called “business records” doctrine: The utility, not the customer, owns those records.  So once again, under US law, people do not own the data about them.  This seems to be a fundamental difference between the US and the EU.  Strangely, the EU seems to provide more privacy protections for its citizens than the US.  The US seems to be more concerned about protecting the business environment and ensuring that nothing hinders the economic vitality of its corporations.

The net result is that businesses can request any information they wish from you, the consumer, and if you provide it the government can simply request it from the corporation. In addition, the corporation can sell that data on to whomever it chooses.  But that is a different issue.

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