It’s a two edged sword – on one hand the authorities want to know about potential issues without tipping off the alleged perpetrators but on the other hand innocent people are being caught in a net of criminal investigations each year.
In part, we have whistleblower Edward Snowden to thank for this – tipping a very big, deep and murky bucket on the US (and other countries) National Security Agency data snooping practices.
In part, we also have the Electronic Freedom Foundation batting for users’ rights by exposing major company’s attitudes to data disclosure. In its “Who has your back?” report it names and shames companies in relation to protecting user rights. The good guys (figuratively speaking) fighting via Congress are too many to list but include Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Dropbox, facebook, Linked-in, Google, and Microsoft. Many now require a warrant for Government access to data and will tell users about the request before providing it.
“It serves to chill the unbridled, cost-free collection of data,” said Albert Gidari Jr., a partner at Perkins Coie who represents several technology companies. “And I think that’s a good thing.”
The Justice Department disagrees, saying in a statement that new industry policies threaten investigations and put potential crime victims in greater peril. “These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine,” department spokesman Peter Carr said, citing a case in which early disclosure put at risk a cooperative witness in a case. He declined to offer details because the case was under seal.
The excellent Washington Post article is here – it makes chilling reading.