Grind for September 24th
“A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.” – Steven Wright
The British have lost their right to privacy. Are we next in line?
In Great Britain, police are using surveillance cameras and facial recognition technology to learn information about the public without a search warrant.
“By touching the screen showing your image, the police instantly have a full dossier on you at their fingertips – your medical, financial, law enforcement, educational, personal, and employment records,” writes Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Studies suggest there are more than 420,000 surveillance cameras in London alone.
The full extent of the surveillance program was revealed during a recent trial – in which plaintiff Ed Bridges argued that police should not be allowed to scan a person’s face into their database without probable cause.
Police claim the database helps them catch wanted individuals and does no harm to innocents like Ed.
During the trial, investigators discovered that the surveillance system was never authorized by Parliament and that police had been charging people who purposefully hide their faces from the cameras.
The court sided with the police.
“People in Great Britain have lost their right to be left alone,” says Napolitano. “The police can access anything about anyone on a whim without stating a reason. Can that happen here?”
In the United States, the federal government “already captures nearly every keystroke – even those that we think we have deleted – on every device used to transmit digital data on fiber optic cables,” notes Napolitano. “That covers every mobile, desktop, and mainframe device.”
Police departments throughout the US are using systems that attract cellphone signals from passersby – thus allowing them to track the movements of innocent people – and cops in major cities are using facial recognition databases to track down criminals. These methods were not approved by Congress or by local governments.
As Napolitano explains the government and police seem to have assumed that Fourth Amendment rights apply only in the case of criminal prosecution, not to broad information gathering.
“The Fourth Amendment was written expressly to prohibit what British police are doing to the British public and what American police and the NSA are doing to the American public – commencing investigations of the innocent without suspicion.”
Napolitano’s comments highlight the urgent need for consumer privacy laws; but, despite broad support from both sides of the aisle, Congress has failed to present a proposal.
“We’ve been talking for what, two years about a privacy bill?” says Senator John Kennedy (R-LA). “Haven’t seen one, don’t know if we’ll ever see one.”
In the meantime, police departments, social media companies, and others will continue to gobble up our personal data with no effective solution to store it, dispose of it, or protect it from hackers.
Federal judge suspends California law that blocks Trump from primary
A federal judge on Thursday sided with President Trump’s request to suspend a California law that requires all presidential candidates to release five years of income tax returns.
A formal ruling will be issued by October 1st, at which time the state of California will decide whether or not to appeal.
If allowed to stand, California’s law would have blocked Trump from appearing on California’s primary ballot (unless he released his tax returns by November 26th).
Opponents of the law worry that Trump’s absence on the primary ballot could lead to a significant reduction in GOP voter turnout even though his name would appear on the general election ballot.
“We look forward to the court’s written order. It remains our position that the law is unconstitutional because states are not permitted to add additional requirements for candidates for president, and that the law violates the Constitution,” said Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow.
California Democrats claim the law is designed to improve transparency.
“These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards and to restore public confidence,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom (D). “The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”
So far, none of the Democratic presidential candidates have submitted five years’ worth of their tax returns.
Trump won the first round, but we can expect this fight to continue. The case will likely end up in the liberal 9th Circuit; if they reverse the decision, it could land in the Supreme Court.
I expect the Supreme Court to side with Trump, because if they don’t, they will be upholding the right for a state to pass laws aimed at a single candidate – and that’s bad news for Democracy.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… Left-handed people are better at sports that require good spatial judgment and fast reaction, compared to right-handed individuals.