Despite the guarantee of the Fourth Amendment, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have made a habit of spying on the citizenry. But in the 21st century, the internet and the ability of computers to store and process vast amounts of data has allowed the government to collect vast amounts of data about each of us.
Government surveillance goes well beyond the NSA/FBI mass surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s automatic license plate readers have been recording our travel for decades; the FBI’s domain awareness program records where we travel, record has been recording license plates for decades, Fusion Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces (run by DHS and the FBI respectively) gather information.
We have a chance to rein in mass surveillance, by demanding Congress support serious reforms of Section 702, like requiring a warrant to access our communications or preventing such communications from being swept up and stored in a database in the first place.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed to combat threats from hostile foreign powers and international terrorism, but the FBI has been looking at the communications of U.S. persons without a warrant or even suspicion of wrongdoing.
California spends more time discussing and imposing regulations on barber shops and taco trucks than on equipment capable of tracking my whereabouts in real time, locating me within my own home, place of worship or doctor’s office, tracking my face as I walk about town.