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Patriot Update: Gee, Guys, You Can't DO That!

By - September 08, 2007

Yes, I write from time to time about how I’m deeply skeptical of the US Executive Branch’s current trend toward monarchical power for the Presidency, and in particular, I have written many times about how I am no fan of the PATRIOT Act. Danny does the reporting on good news:

A US district court judge has ruled that it is unconstitutional for the US government to send secret letters demanding search records from search engines. A provision of the Patriot Act has allowed for such letters to be sent to search engines, ISPs and others by the Federal Bureau Of Investigation — and made it illegal for companies getting such FBI demands to even reveal the requests at all in general. Today’s ruling found that violated free speech rights.



Previously on Searchblog on this topic.

Update: Oh, and by the way, if you think our government never overreaches when given too much power without enough oversight, read this.

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6 thoughts on “Patriot Update: Gee, Guys, You Can't DO That!

  1. Mano Appapillai says:

    John
    Please stick to technology and leave out politics . . there
    are many others better informed than you on the Patriot Act and consequences !
    Thanks
    mano
    San Diego,CA

  2. JG says:

    But Mano, technology is politics is technology.

    Especially in this day and age, where so much of technology is centered around information and how it flows.

    Maybe in a different age, when the biggest advancement in technology centered around coming up with better treads on your tractor, to increase farming productivity, was technology divorced from politics.

    But today, technology is information. Google as a technology centers around the distribution and flow of information. The iPod owes its success to the popularity of music information. DRM is technology with a political statement, limiting fair use and enforcing a certain political agenda on consumers of music information. Email. Web browsers. HDTVs. Xboxs. Just walk into your local Best Buy, and have a glance around. With the exception of a small little corner of the store offering a few refridgerators, dishwashers, and stoves, 85% of what is for sale are technologies for the capture, manipulation, display, or movement of information.

    And what could be more political than information? Don’t believe me? I’ve been listening for 15 years to all the talk about how the ability to share information, about the brave new world that the internet is issuing in, will change the political order of things. Informed citizens. Knowledge-filled consumers. eVoting. Information is politics.

    So if technology (esp. Google-like technology) is information, and information is politics, then, via transitivity, technology is politics.

    I might or might not agree with John on whatever political stance he takes at the moment. But I think he is completely within bounds when he does say something political. Politics and technology, especially search engine technology, are completely mutually relevant to each other.

  3. TomLee says:

    Great post, JG. I agree. And, look to folks John Battelle and Danny Sullivan for investigative reporting on these matters of information technology and how it is used in (government) decision making methods; politics.

    Too many people interpret the term “politics” as Dems v Reps or some such, I think, and carry a meaning in their mind that it’s about stating why my side is better, smarter, more right, than your side.

    Politics is a desicion making method. Information is how we inform ourself about the decision. Technology is how we gather (the information) in order to make a decision.

    If the government wants to gather information from Search Engines in oder to inform it about the citizens we better care deeply about it.

    That every source of light, be it a individual blogger, a blogging community, or the New York TImes that can be thrown on the government methods for making decisions shine brightly upon it.

    Lastly, mano, the title of John Battelle’s blog is “searchblog…thoughts on the intersection of search, media, tech and more..”

    The title is not “Searchblog…thoughts on start-ups, cool new technologies and publicly traded companies that you can make a lot of money on.

    John Battelle is certainly not off topic to the reader that understands the framework from which John Battelle is posting this column about.

    Tom

  4. MikeM says:

    Another “hold your nose and read” type post on Searchblog.

    It really is dangerous when persons that no ZERO about the realities of world politics today act as thought they do.

    JB and Sullivan are way out of their league. The FBI is not the boogie man.

    I read this blog for the insights on tech and search, not personal politics.

  5. It really is not such good news:
    No one has any influence on which Judge gets a case; it is like tossing a coin whether one gets a Clinton or Carter or Bushes or Regan appointee.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_district_court

    A District Judge’s ruling could be overturned upon appeal.

    The US has deep pockets to litigate until they get to a final resolution. Or they could just rewrite that part of the Patriot Act to find some other method of compelling information.

    Google was the only one that chose to go what will ultimately become an expensive and resource consuming litigation. It is not hard to understand why the others were to intimidated to spend their resources on this.

  6. Hal O'Brien says:

    “It really is dangerous when persons that no ZERO about the realities of world politics today act as thought they do.”

    It may well be dangerous.

    Trouble is, it’s more dangerous when they don’t. Which is why I’m willing to let people as self-professedly ignorant as yourself write such opinions.

    You were talking about yourself, weren’t you? Or do you also completely ignore the Golden Rule, in addition to your spell checker?

    To quote Churchill (monarchist though he may have been), “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

    By the way, if someone in our administration — to whom We The People have delegated certain menial tasks, even while we maintain sovereignty — knows vastly more than I do about world politics today, that would almost certainly be because they’re withholding that information. That makes it impossible for me as a voter (and their boss) to judge whether they’re doing a competent job.

    The technical term for that is, “voter fraud.”

    So while it may be comforting to believe that someone knows vastly more, and is acting reasonably on it, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re acting legally… and are therefore just as clueless (or informed) as you and me.