14. TECHNOLOGY AND PRIVACY
"The privacy questions raised by the new Telecommunication Age
represent the single most important issue facing Congress today,"
said John Shattuck, ACLU Director. Shattuck's observation is not without
merit based on our technological sophistication and the apparent modification,
interpretation, and willful ignoring of our privacy laws by the U.S.
Advances in computer technology have now made it possible to monitor
the computer or telephone transmissions of thousands of private citizens
at one time by programming the eavesdropping computer to pick-up key
phrases, selected buzzwords, peoples names, addresses, or phone numbers
and then routing these calls to the human eavesdropper or recording
them for future reference. These sophisticated super computers can develop
"Personality Profiles" on the unsuspecting telephone user
using "non aural" techniques.
In 1983, a federal appeals court ruled the National Security Agency
could lawfully intercept messages Between U.S. citizens and people in
foreign countries, "Even if there is no reason to believe that
the Americans are foreign agents." The National Communications
Section, a federal agency, has drafted revisions to the Communications
Act of 1934. "If these revisions ... become law, they will make
it possible for the President, without congressional consent, to force
any private communication agency to provide services and equipment to
any government agency even in peacetime." Also, because computers
turn transmission into "Digital Bits," a loophole in the 19,68
Wiretap Law makes it lawful for any government agency to monitor and
intercept such transmissions without a search warrant.
Again, in 1983, the Reagan administration gave the okay to "randomly
require government officials to submit to lie detector tests, even if
no unauthorized disclosures are suspected. The "New Order"
requires officials with Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances
to sign agreements binding them, for life, to submit writings that might
contain "Sensitive Information," even if unclassified, to
government censors. Despite Congressional protest and understanding
that the latter requirement had been eliminated, government employees
continue to be required to sign such agreements.
Despite all the protestations that George Orwell's 1984 did not arrive,
it would seem that Big Brother is somewhere and listening very quietly
to what we are saying.
INFOWORLD, four part series starting April 4, 1983, "Technology
and privacy: Reach out and tap someone," by John Markoff, Michael
Singer, and David Weir; NEW YORK TIMES, 12/28/83, "Loophole in
the law raises concern about privacy in computer age;" and WASHINGTON
POST NATIONAL WEEKLY EDITION, November 7, 1983, "Random Lie Detector
Test," by George Lardner, Jr.