It may be true that “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” as President Obama declared in the wake of revelations of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs, but the fact remains that the devices we use are constantly leaking private information – our location, who we talk to, the duration of our calls, Wi-Fi networks we have connected to in the past, unique identification numbers of our mobile devices, and so on. Criminal hackers, corporate actors and governments around the world are ecstatic about the weak standards, backdoors, and exploits that they can use to vacuum up data about you, while your Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures is shoved as far as possible into an unregarded corner.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal revealed the existence of yet another dragnet surveillance program – this time, it’s run by the U.S. Marshals:
The Comprehensive Community-Police Relationship Act of 2014 has just been introduced in the RI Senate. This is the result of a compromise between civil-rights people working on the issue and Rhode Island’s police. It doesn’t have everything that civil-rights people might want, but the civil-rights people who negotiated it are confident that it doesn’t take any backward steps in people’s legal rights. No hearings have been scheduled yet. In the past, many bills addressing racial profiling have failed due to public police opposition, but this time the RI Police Chiefs Association says that they will not be testifying against the bill.
This is a significant step forward if we can pass the bill. Rhode Island already has a law on the books that says racial profiling is illegal, like about 20 other states, but we don’t yet have a law that takes serious steps to reduce racial profiling. As far as I know, RI will be the only state (if this bill passes) that will take enforceable steps to reduce racial disparities in community-police interactions.
The proposed law also includes some other good things for civil liberties:
In the states and the cities of New England, unparalleled, cross-partisan, cross-racial coalitions are forming, bringing together libertarians, Tea Party people, technologists, peace and environmental activists, Occupy folks, veterans’ groups, people of color, religious groups and progressive Democrats. The nation may never have seen people of such disparate views united under one banner.