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Are Conservatives AWOL In Biggest Privacy Fight?

Google NSA

Conservatives and liberty minded elected officials and organizations have been leading the charge in the battle to rein-in Obama’s NSA and its unconstitutional domestic spying, but in what is a potentially more important case involving Google, and what plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the internet giant argue is its all-pervasive commercial spying, conservatives and liberty minded elected officials appear to be AWOL.

At the center of the fight is Google’s attempt to seal key documents as the lawsuit against it proceeds.

Arrayed against the search giant are not the conservative and liberty minded opponents of Obama’s NSA, but a coalition of liberal media outlets and hard left organizations including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio and The Newspaper Guild – Communications Workers of America Union.

Of the interveners attempting to prevent Google from sealing the court documents and thus preventing the public from understanding the extent of the search giant’s commercial snooping, only Forbes stands out as a conservative organization or publication.

As Chairman Richard A. Viguerie wrote when the Google lawsuit began to heat up, “The NSA affair has definitely spurred new thinking, but more needs to be done. Conservatives must begin to scrutinize the nexus between tech companies, such as Google, and the federal government. There is no longer a wall between the private sector and government surveillance.”

These data-collection giants are not even a valid subpoena away from handing over our most personal data, which they organize, analyze, and “monetize,” in Google parlance. 

Look no further than the evening news for evidence of how the wall between public surveillance and private surveillance is now rendered meaningless for policymakers. The NSA tapping into Google’s data centers is reminiscent of the age-old “Willie Sutton” rule: The agency captured personal data profiles from Google because that’s where the data is. Indeed, the search giant has emerged as the purveyor of all of our personal information — in one sense the NSA’s leading vendor.

Today’s tech behemoths amass huge collections of information, and use them to develop profiles that predict behavior and receptivity, everything from the content of emails to tracking our daily activities, habits, wants, etc. It all goes well beyond sophisticated marketing.

But key to making this work is the secrecy with which this data collection is conducted.

U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, California, rejected Google’s motion to dismiss, allowing the case to move forward. Judge Koh’s revealing decision is worth reading in full. She picked apart Google’s central argument:

“Google has cited no case that stands for the proposition that users who send e-mails impliedly consent to interceptions and use of their communications by third parties other than the intended recipient of the e-mail. Nor has Google cited anything that suggests that by doing nothing more than receiving e-mails from a Gmail user, non-Gmail users have consented to the interception of those communications. Accepting Google’s theory of implied consent — that by merely sending emails to or receiving e-mails from a Gmail user, a non-Gmail user has consented to Google’s interception of such e-mails for any purposes — would eviscerate the rule against interception.”

But if the data collection giant’s motion to seal documents in the case is allowed then the extent of its scanning of emails may never get a full public airing. 

Running afoul of federal wiretap laws.  Invading the privacy of millions of Americans for targeted advertising. A class action lawsuit.  The case is an unfolding legal drama that could have big consequences for everyone who uses the internet for their personal and business communications, and yet, it could be kept secret from the public.

As Viguerie said back in October of 2013 when this story first broke: “It is time for conservatives to throw off the influence of surveillance state advocates, make common cause with libertarians and receptive liberals, and take the privacy fight a step further to rein in companies that – wittingly or unwittingly – have become the government’s partners in the massive surveillance state.”

Click here to read CHQ Chairman Richard Viguerie’s column “Privacy is a Conservative Cause.”

Click here to read a POLITICO article that includes the media motion to intervene in the Google Gmail case.

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Conservative "Yeah Buts" to Liberty

The primacy of liberty's purpose to our Founders, expressed in our Declaration and Constitution, many conservatives have too long yielded to security. This is evident in a number of ways. For example, domestically rather than abolish the unconstitutional federal war on drugs that has us leading the world in imprisoned citizens; good 'ole law 'n order s'port yer local police "conservatives" look for better prisons. And, with nary a country without American bases or other intervention, and military expenditures greater than most major powers combined(!), for some "conservatives" it's practically heretical to suggest citizens retain more of their tax monies by real military budget cutting. When more than lip service to liberty and the Constitution is called for these "conservatives" give their "yeah buts" of overriding security arguments. We were warned about the evils of "large standing armies" (and military spirited police). As James Madison warned “If tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” The Cold War conservative coalition is probably unrestorable for liberty's purposes.