Tech giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Microsoft are major suppliers of personal information to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, according to an article in The Associated Press.
The most recent figures available, which cover the first half of 2020, show that over 112,000 requests for data went to Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft from local, state, and federal officials. Social media platforms provide a “treasure trove of information,” said Lt. Robert Salter of the Newport, R.I. police.
“Everything happens on Facebook,” Salter said. “The amount of information you can get from people’s conversations online — it’s insane.”
These tech giants have provided so much information about people’s comings and goings that some are calling it a bonanza or “the golden age of government surveillance.”
It has become increasingly easier for law enforcement to apprehend those suspected of crimes by following their online trails, said Cindy Cohn, executive director of a digital rights group called Electronic Frontier Foundation.
She says that these tech companies claim they are forced to divulge this information; if they don’t, the law will go to a judge to get a subpoena to open up the person’s data.
Facebook and Instagram disclose more data to the local, state, and government agencies than all of the others, AP reported. When pressed by the public as to why they are sharing their users’ personal data without first letting them know, they say that most of the data they are forced to share is considered “noncontent” data.
Cohn and others are calling for reforms of the old surveillance rules, written years ago, that are still in place.
“Our surveillance laws are really based on the idea that if something is really important, we store it at home, and that doesn’t pass the giggle test these days,” Cohn said. “It’s just not true.”
The government has gotten good at hiding its tracks about these disclosures. By working with judges, they get a gag order that keeps their requests secret, and they continue to abuse our freedom to privacy, the story noted.
The rich, the powerful, and Congress are not above being investigated, and their accounts are tapped into and examined.
Other tech companies opening their records and accounts include Amazon, Lyft, Airbnb, Uber, and Verizon.
When you spend your money at these facilities or online, your privacy is up for grabs — not just by the ordinary criminal or cyber-criminal, but by law enforcement authorities, the story noted.
The majority of people using these tech companies out there are trying to make their lives more comfortable, kick-it with family and friends, and meet new people.
Law enforcement would have you believe that if you just did not commit crimes, you would not have anything to be alarmed about, the story said.
Fearful that your online privacy will continue to be screened, digital groups suggest that you put up more firewalls or use some sort of encryption technology to make your information harder to decipher.
Until then, the police will continue to short-circuit constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and carry on breaking into your accounts, AP said.
The internet is an ocean of information. Just like cybercriminals, law enforcement will continue to fish for yours.