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In years gone by there existed an understanding that one’s personal information surrendered to private companies was a voluntary choice – the “cost,” if you will, to obtaining the benefit of a company’s goods or services. Importantly – and constitutionally – such a “trade off” was far different from the government obtaining personal and private information by way of surveillance or other information-gathering actions undertaken without a warrant.
There was a relatively clear line between private company collection of personal information voluntarily provided, and the government gathering such information without one’s knowledge or consent. Today, that “line” has been blurred to the point of near erasure.
Government - Officials - Course - Ways - Fourth
Government officials, of course, have never been short on creative ways to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s restrictions on unreasonable and warrantless gathering of information. We all are familiar, for example, with the abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act procedures by previous administrations, whereby the federal government was able to unlawfully surveil U.S. citizens’ private communications. Some of us also may recall the FBI’s use of Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” technicians to browse computers for illegal content while on service calls.
But with the digital age have come new opportunities for companies and government agencies alike to spy on citizens.
Rise - Media - Advancements - DNA - Testing
The rise of social media and other technological advancements -- geo-tracking and at-home DNA testing -- have led to an explosion of highly personal information shared openly with third parties -- and in turn, government agencies as well. Like throwing chum in the water to attract sharks, this treasure trove of data in the hands of private companies has caught the attention of government agencies at all levels; especially law enforcement agencies suddenly freed from the strictures of the Fourth Amendment.
While some companies, like Apple, have at times put up a principled fight against...
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