The Borders of Cybersecurity Wear Thinner
The Obama Administration has signed an executive order authorizing wiretapping across Internet networks. This program circumvents federal wiretapping laws to allow for the unlawful monitoring of cyber information. Do you conduct business over the Internet? Do you participate with online social networking sites? Do you share personal information with websites or over email communications? If you are one of the many Internet users in the United States (approximately 245,000,000 according to The World Factbook) these recent developments could affect your privacy. Therefore, we recommend that you speak with an experienced attorney who can explain the recent developments in related laws, guidelines, and protocols and their implications.
Under this executive order, the Justice Department allows network providers that participate in the surveillance program to avoid legal ramifications for the otherwise unlawful wiretapping. The Justice Department granted such legal immunity by issuing "2511 letters" to such network providers. The term "2511 letter" is a reference to the Wiretap Act, which is codified under 18 U.S.C. section 2511. The Wiretap Act prohibits Internet service providers from wiretapping network traffic, unless such monitoring is necessary to providing the service, or the user consents to monitoring. However, pursuant to the "2511 letters" Internet service providers have legal immunity to conduct otherwise illegal wiretapping practices.
The aforementioned executive order also relates to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act ("CISPA"). This controversial privacy bill plans to override all state and federal laws, privacy policies, including, but not limited to, wiretap laws, and permit companies to share cybersecurity related information with other entities. For instance, a network provider or online search engine could lawfully share Internet usage history with the federal government without a prior court order.
In March 2012, attorneys with the Electronic Privacy Information Center ("EPIC") filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security demanding documentation related to the program under the authority of the Freedom of Information Act. In the lawsuit, EPIC argued that agencies participating in this program are looking for the authority to monitor information and private networks, which could reveal private information in cyberspace. These practices are especially troublesome because if not for Obama's recent executive order, they would be a clear violation of the federal Wiretap Act. Currently, companies like AT&T and CenturyLink are publicly participating in this program.
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