Digital Fourth / Restore The Fourth Boston’s mission is “to promote the use of duly and lawfully executed Fourth Amendment warrants; to pursue public education efforts to increase public awareness of government practices relating to the search and seizure of electronic data; and to lobby public officials on these issues.”
I started Digital Fourth with two friends in 2012. We wanted to document the abuses of the surveillance state, and identify state-level strategies to undermine it. As the experienced nonprofit manager, I handled the day-to-day setup, and we became a properly designated 501(c)(4) nonprofit.
Then all hell broke loose, and it’s still breaking.
On June 6, 2013, Edward Snowden went public with the first of a series of revelations about the vast extent of US government intrusion into our digital data. Though civil liberties activists like myself had suspected a lot of what he disclosed, he provided inarguable proof of serious Constitutional abuses.
We now know that we have in this country an intelligence community that views the Fourth Amendment as a dead letter, and that barely even bothers to structure any of its systems around the notions the Fourth Amendment embodies. We now know that we are all spied on relentlessly and without ceasing, irrespective of whether there is probable cause – or even reasonable suspicion – to suspect us of any crime.
The police departments of large cities are increasingly complicit in this system, and rapidly advancing technologies make it easier and easier for them to track us. Prosecutors, lacking any meaningful accountability, see hackers, technologists, journalists, dissidents and people of color as especially frightening, and use vague laws to criminalize ordinary and Constitutionally protected behavior. The leadership of both political parties is bound up in this system, both as its creators and also its victims.
Starting here in Massachusetts, we are pursuing meaningful reforms of government data collection and retention, criminal justice, and intelligence work, so that each of us can breathe a little easier as we go about our daily lives. In October 2013, we merged with Restore The Fourth’s Boston chapter, making Digital Fourth one of over 20 chapters of Restore The Fourth nationwide. As part of our national work, we aim to sunset Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, a law that enables a major part of the surveillance state.
This is an agenda that is both new and old. We want to preserve the timeless protections of the US Constitution; but by doing so, we will also preserve the freedom to experiment, to innovate, to create, and to agitate. We cannot remain at the forefront of technological and social advances if our brightest minds are constantly under the closest watch.
If you agree, join us. It’s going to be a wild ride.