One of my favorite class discussions is usually arises during the American Government block on our Bill of Rights and the flexibility of the seemingly immutable language, "Congress shall make no law..."
Inevitably when I ask for examples of laws which have infringed and sacrificed our rights, someone will offer the Patriot Act and the total destruction of American society. I will usually respond to this apprentice of the American Civil Liberties Union with the simple question, "How have you been impacted since 2001 by the USA Patriot Act?"
They will offer up a blather of propaganda explaining about their privacy being invaded by monitoring phones, intercepting emails, tracking their library checkouts (despite never having been in a library or bookstore in years) and their home invasions. Has any of that impacted them? Well, no. But it might.
Have they ever looked at their cellphone bills listing every call during the last month? The date, time, number called and duration are all documented. Do they know that government subpoenas of that information were rebuffed successfully in court? Do they know that libraries generally do not retain records of checkouts after materials are returned? Do they know that libraries have never been subpoenaed for that data? Have they ever heard of a FISA warrant? Did they think that wireless communication was otherwise secure?
In other words the Patriot Act has proven generally effective and largely undamaging to our privacy.
That's why I like this:
Time to Extend the Protections
We live in dangerous times. Technology is both our friend and our enemy. We should understand that every tool has good uses and bad ones. We need to be sure that when we use our tools we actually know what they are doing and not what the opponents of the tool would have us believe.