When U.S. President-elect Barack Obama was merely candidate Obama, he told CNET News in no uncertain terms that he opposed the idea of immunizing any telecommunications company that opened its network to the National Security Agency.
In February 2008, the Senate voted on a proposal extending retroactive immunity to AT&T or any company found to have violated federal privacy laws. Obama opposed immunity at the time.
But by the time the final vote happened in July, Obama had secured enough votes to win the Democratic nomination, and he flip-flopped. He joined the majority of his colleagues in voting 69 to 28 for immunity from lawsuits.
For his part, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain also appeared to waffle over whether to support retroactive immunity.
The bill did become law, but the story isn't over yet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is pursuing a privacy lawsuit against AT&T in San Francisco, and a federal judge heard arguments in December about whether Congress' grant of immunity complies with the U.S. Constitution. A decision is expected at any time.
Politicians may have chosen to bless privacy violations by the executive branch, but they were eager to point the finger at alleged marketing-related misdeeds by corporations.
That happened most prominently in the controversy that erupted in May over whether Internet service providers should be able to intercept traffic--only for the purpose of delivering relevant advertisements--if customers have not explicitly chosen to participate. Hearings were held, threats were made, and eventually, the company known as NebuAd suspended its plans.
The double standard wasn't limited to NebuAd. In April, then-Sen. Joe Biden said federal and local police should use custom software to monitor peer-to-peer networks for illegal activity, and that $1 billion in tax dollars should be spent to help make that happen. A profile of the incoming vice president shows that his surveillance-friendly views are long-held.
Similarly, the FBI announced that it wanted new legislation that would allow federal police to monitor the Internet for "illegal activity," which raises additional privacy concerns. The FBI also lobbied Congress for a law forcing Internet service providers to keep records of their users' activities for later review by police.
The presidential election brought its share of privacy promises, pledges, and missteps. Joe the Plumber was the subject of some extracurricular snooping, and Sarah Palin found that her Yahoo e-mail account was hacked. Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr pledged to be the privacy candidate, but that didn't propel him to victory.
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What are the privacy implications? What happens next? News.com tries to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the controversial law.
News.com offers a handy color-coded threat level system for protecting your data at international border crossings from snoopy customs agents.
Director says he wants laws to give FBI power to monitor private-sector networks, going beyond existing system that conducts surveillance of .gov networks.
NebuAd and other companies have been offering broadband providers a way to monitor customers and display relevant ads. But the legality of it is anything but settled.
Barack Obama's pick for vice president is an ally of the music industry on copyright and the FBI on wiretaps. He also unintentionally spurred the creation of PGP.
Originally a three-page $700 billion bill, House-approved bailout package now includes surveillance provisions and tax credits for green tech, SunKist tuna, and wooden arrows.
Using data mining to try to detect terrorists is "neither feasible as an objective nor desirable as a goal of technology development efforts," new report finds.
A United Nations telecommunications agency is drafting a proposal called "IP traceback" and has scheduled a meeting next week. Its potential impact on anonymity is raising alarms.
U.S. District Court has temporarily halted the sale of RemoteSpy keylogger software, which the Federal Trade Commission says harms consumers and violates the FTC Act.
Eric Holder, the deputy attorney general under President Clinton, has criticized the warrantless wiretapping program. But he wanted to limit encryption use, and his views on other online policies may not be that far from the Bush administration's.
A successful public-private partnership to combat cyberthreats will require more trust and forward-looking ideas, policy experts say referring to Homeland Security.