I realized the other day that I have grown to really hate and distrust some dude named “Third Party.” Even though he occasionally sends me e-mail birthday cards, it is clear that he is not my friend.
I got my first inkling that TP and I were not going to be best buds when I learned that if TP came into possession of my information — or if he generated records about me, it meant that I supposedly no longer had any “reasonable expectation of privacy” over that information when it came to the government.
Now I knew that some of my calls to TP could be monitored “for quality control purposes” because TP warned me about that, but TP never told me me that he was compiling very detailed records showing where my cell phone went that could create a timeline of where I go throughout my day, every day. TP doesn’t even have to ever look at those records to result in me losing privacy protections. As long as TP creates those records and retains them, the government may be able to get their hands on them without a warrant. TP assures me that he really doesn’t want to give my information over to the government, but hasn’t really satisfactorily explained why he compiles so much information to begin with. I am tempted to tell TP, “If you build it, he will come” but I’m afraid that TP might take that as advice to build a baseball field instead of recognizing that I’m referring to databases.
The fact that I don’t even know what data TP has about me is troubling. The fact that the courts have often told the government that they can have our data without a warrant or opportunity to object to a warrant is even more troubling.
TP is the digital future and is essential to growth and development of a global economy. We need to view TP not as an exclusion to our reasonable expectation of privacy, but as a surrogate who holds the digital “papers” that the framers of the Constitution intended to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizure.
Congress should reform ECPA so that TP does not waive our reasonable expectation of privacy and so that a probable cause standard must be met before the government is given access to our information. Maybe then TP and I can patch up our relationship. Until then, he can send me all the birthday e-mails he wants, but he’s not my friend and I don’t trust him.