As I researched this subject – just basically went hunting for articles and information regarding the re-write of the email surveillance bill and how, if passed, it would allow government officials to read anyone and everyone’s email without having to first obtain a warrant from a judge – I discovered the bill has been pulled by Senator Leahy. The first article I read on the subject, which included the point that if passed government officials wouldn’t need a warrant to obtain people’s personal emails, was dated November 20 and the bill was pulled on November 21. So in essence, in the hustle and bustle of the week of Thanksgiving I missed the original story and the follow up articles relaying the fact that the bill has been pulled from consideration.

However, even though the bill has been dropped I still think this is an important subject — protecting our rights, especially our right to being safe and secure in our persons and property and today also in our personal digital information.  In this case the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the one that guarantees that all citizens should be safe and secure in their persons and properties and personal information (the exact wording is that we are supposed to be safe in our “papers” and today that word can be seen as synonymous with our personal e-information.

Specifically the fourth amendment states:

 “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”*

And I think our right to be secure in our persons and possession (including e-documents and e-stored personal information) is under a bit of a threat in this high tech age we are living in. And I say that because although I am a huge fan and proponent of the fact that individuals now have more information easily available at their fingertips, via the web at the tap of app or by the click of mouse, than at any previous time in human history – the downside to the equation is that other people can access electronic information too including our personal e-information. Thus in theory, the government could pass legislation that would allow government officials to electronically access your personal e-information including any documents on your computer, smartphone or tablet, tracking what sites you visit online and what apps you use and basically just allowing government officials to access any of your personal e-information from your medical records, to your bank records to what you said about a government official on your Facebook page.

So that is the long way around barn of saying that even in a democracy like the U.S.; today we need to be vigilant and keep up on what legislation is coming up before congress that might infringe on our rights. This has always been an important issue for citizens of a democracy; however, today it is more important than ever because the double-edged sword of quick and easy access to information that the web and digital formats allows combined with the easy way our personal information can be digitally saved & stored and then accessed later means that more of our personal information can be accessed by others as well as ourselves — instantly at the click of a mouse or via the tap of an app.

So this posting in the end is a plea just to be vigilant and be aware of what your rights are, as set down in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and what legislation is up before congress that might infringe on those rights. Fortunately, keeping track of information is easier now than ever before! You can use a news aggregator and simply set it to search for articles on legislation and digital formats – perhaps “legislation (or bill, or congress) and Internet” or “legislation (or bill, or congress) and  email” or even “legislation (or bill, or congress) and e-books” and any new news articles found online will be gathered and placed before you for your perusal!

If you don’t currently use a news aggregator – there are apps for that including Google News/Reader, Flipboard, Zite and Pulse – here’s are two links to articles that highlight news aggregator apps:

The first articles if from PaidContent and is titled Comparing the New Aggregators and it is from last year; however, it still highlights the most popular aggregators and is an accessible read:

http://paidcontent.org/2011/11/30/comparing-the-new-aggregators-november-2011

And the second article is from Simplyzety.com, titled The 11 Best News Aggregator Apps for Those on the Go, and offers their take on the eleven best news aggregators as of this fall:

http://www.simplyzesty.com/mobile/the-11-best-news-aggregator-apps-for-those-on-the-go/#

And here is the info on the two articles that started me out on this posting journey of discussing our rights and how they can more easily be infringed upon in our current high tech age.

The first article, titled Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your email without warrants, is from November 20, 2012. It discusses how the email surveillance bill had been tweaked and, if passed, would have allow government officials to obtain access to people’s emails without obtaining a warrant:

Here’s the link:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57552225-38/senate-bill-rewrite-lets-feds-read-your-e-mail-without-warrants/?part=rss&subj=news&tag=title

And the second article, titled Leahy scuttles his warrantless email surveillance bill, is from November 21, 2012 and relays the fact that this particular bill has been dropped from consideration:

Here’s the link:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57552687-38/leahy-scuttles-his-warrantless-e-mail-surveillance-bill/

Have a great Monday afternoon everyone!

Linda R.

*You can access an official version of the Bill of Rights via the following link, which will take you to the National Archives site:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html

 

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