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3rd Party Privacy

(Image from justice.gov/dag)

I am troubled by an argument that I read earlier today in Glenn Greenwald's new piece NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama (6/27/13). This is the statement to which I'm referring:

"Toll records, phone records like this, that don't include any content, are not covered by the fourth amendment because people don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in who they called and when they called," [Deputy attorney general James] Cole testified to the House intelligence committee on June 18. "That's something you show to the phone company. That's something you show to many, many people within the phone company on a regular basis." (emphasis added)

The foundation of this argument that "That's something you show to many, many people within the phone company on a regular basis," is ludicrous. So, is there now some threshold number of employees that a company has beyond which any information they possess is no longer private?

Suppose the business in question is a hospital. Any number of people working at the hospital can view the appointment schedule of the doctors working there - the metadata, if you will. Even if the patient's medical records are out of bounds - the content - should law enforcement be able to go to the hospital without a warrant and force the hospital to turn over all of the appointment times and doctors visited by the patient? By the above argument, they should be able of such an intrusion.

I agree with Rand Paul that 3rd party privacy is a big issue. However, I'm still leery about passing legislation to prop up the Fourth Amendment for reasons I've stated elsewhere. Something needs to be done though. This should be an issue dealt with through the court system - especially if the defense tries to employ the above argument.

That statement is very troubling. I guess Erin Andrews should have to walk around naked all the time since, after the peeping tom incident, enough people have seen her body to make it no longer private.

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