The U.S. government is waging an “obsessive campaign to access all information, from all sources, at all times,” according to Joshua Dratel, attorney for Ross Ulbricht. He says this is creating a profound and fundamental change in our exposure to government intrusion, monitoring and surveillance. The repercussions on civil liberties in the digital age are what the encryption debate is about.
The government argues that it is now entitled to access private information. Of course, until recently, this access was not possible because the government lacked the technology to intercept or collect data. Casual communications or stored private information was beyond its reach, and the individual could choose whether or not to keep private matters private. This is no longer true.
TOR, encryption and, to a lesser extent Bitcoin, represent the right and ability to choose privacy and/or anonymity, according to Dratel. The government’s opposition to this right threatens to transform privacy from a personal choice to a passive status that exists only with government permission. With that the meaning of “private” becomes “the government doesn’t have the technology to access it yet.”
There are no national borders online. Digital information can be accessed anywhere. The U.S. government now claims worldwide, warrantless access to information created or maintained by U.S. citizens, without worldwide legal and constitutional protections.
It has also made the globe a law-free and constitution-free zone by enlisting foreign governments to obtain evidence for them, as it did in the Silk Road investigation and warrantless seizure of the server.
Do constitutional rights stop at the border? Is digital information protected by the Fourth Amendment? Have we lost our right to privacy? What does this mean for our liberties and Constitutional protections? These are crucial and far reaching questions as we transition into the digital age.
“The fact that digital information travels globally, and can be intercepted and/or collected anywhere, makes all information and anyone, regardless where they reside or are at any particular moment, vulnerable to government intrusion without corresponding legal or constitutional protection,” Dratel said.