Senate Bill Would Dramatically Decrease Online Privacy

UPDATE: Facing a mountain of criticism, Leahy is now walking this turd back somewhat. For more, see our follow up.

If it’s November, than it must be time for Congress to use the impending lame duck session to once again try ruining the Internet for you and everyone like you. And so it is that we’re once again looking down the barrel of a very snoopy gun. Congratulations, America, your email may soon be public domain.

CNET is reporting that a proposed Senate bill originally designed to increase privacy protections for citizens has been rewritten so that it would actually increase the ability of federal law enforcement agencies to conduct unaccountable surveillance. This is, to say the least, an abrupt about face. Last year, bill author Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy bragged publicly that the bill as it was originally written would give “enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by… requiring that the government obtain a search warrant,” to access email. He opted to rewrite the bill after law enforcement officials complained, and if passed the new version of the bill would give immense power to over 22 government agencies to access everything from your gmail account to your Facebook profile without first getting a warrant.

At the risk of sounding alarmist, allowing warrantless access to our private communications destroys the notion of privacy itself, particularly when you consider that it’s a very short logical leap from warrantless access to email, and warrantless access to physical mail. That’s a terrible outcome in and of itself, but it’s also worth noting for those of us here on Game Front that in recent years, even the gaming habits of suspect individuals have been held up as evidence of unworthiness.

Recall how in 2011, Dragon Age 2 was cited as a contributing factor in the Norway massacre. That’s obviously not true, but it made sense to people itching for an excuse to censor and restrict a popular pastime. But then, it’s difficult to defend a terrorist. So how about an innocent gamer whose career was almost destroyed? During the recent election, a woman running for a seat in the Maine state senate was revealed to also be a hge fan of World of Warcraft. Her opponents dug through private communications between her and her guild members and used them in a series of negative ads to imply occult behavior and general unfitness for office. Thankfully, she won that election, but that her enjoyment of WoW was used against her should alert us to the fact that a national security apparatus that already destroys careers over sexual behavior will just as easily move to do so over gaming. This bill would practically enshrine that threat.

The bill goes up for debate on the Senate floor next week, at which point we’ll find out which of our freedom loving defenders of liberty actually care about privacy. Naturally, the fight over SOPA and PIPA last year proved that when sufficiently motivated, we actually can stop our government from doing horrible things. It looks like we’re going to have to prove it again. You know what to do.

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