You probably go on your computer just about every day to do work, check emails and social media, check the weather, search the web for your random questions, etc… But you probably never thought that those companies that provide those services could be catering your information to the government! When the United States’ constitution was written, it came with 10 amendments, known as the bill of rights. The fourth amendment stated:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This amendment protects people from being arrested in an improper manner. If I was suspected of committing a crime, the police would need to go to court and provide sufficient evidence against me before they could get a warrant to search my house. And if the police failed to get a warrant, but still searched my house against my will, that information could not be used against me, even if it proved that I was guilty!
Now apply that information to the internet. Pretty much every site that is commonly used will track you. That includes Google, Bing, Microsoft, The Weather Channel, Facebook, Twitter, all Google apps, Google Chrome, Yahoo, and on and on the list goes. But, there is more than that, believe it or not, because even if you set every privacy setting on the most private web browser in the world and use a bunch of ad-blockers and only make searches on DuckDuckGo.com, and never use email or social media, guess who still tracks you? Your internet service provider, of course! Although, all of the above are definitely recommended, since it will help you escape the unconstitutional privacy breaches of the US government, but your ISP ALWAYS will track you. In fact, if I really want to make you feel bad, this site is hosted by WordPress, which has online trackers, which yes, send your basic information like which country you are from, how many times you visited this site, whether or not you “liked” this site, which pages on this site you visited, etc… to me, letting me know just how unpopular my site is, and sending that information to the government, where they can find your computer’s IP address linked with the sites that you visited.
So why does the government want this information? Companies like Google will read your emails and scan them for certain phrases. If Google detects something fishy, it will send that information to the government to be analyzed. If the email contained something illegal, such as plans for a murder or a shooting, the government would know exactly who’s Google account it was, exactly which computer the criminal used to send the email, almost exactly where the email was sent from (even if you don’t have location enabled, trackers can still find the general area of where the connection is from). For example, if I sign in on a new computer somewhere in the Twin Cities area, Google will send me an email something like this, alerting me to the new sign in: “Hello, you just signed in to your Google account, *******@gmail.com in Minneapolis from Internet Explorer on Windows 10. We take your security very seriously, so blablablablablah.”
So then the government can come and arrest the criminal with sufficient evidence against him based on what they received from the internet, right? Wait a minute! Was a warrant issued to give the government access to this person’s personal Gmail account? No! So according to the constitution, the evidence that Google provided the government with cannot be used against the criminal since it was obtained improperly! Can the criminal legally be arrested with only the information from the email? No!
Perhaps you may be thinking, “Maybe that should be an exception, since it saved the lives of those who would’ve been murdered.” But then, what if the person was innocent? He just got a personal email that could be extremely unimportant, or it could be very personal, leaked out into the public without his will. Not only that, but now he knows that the government has been digging through his emails without his permission, trying to convict him of a crime. It is no different than if a police officer stopped your car as you were driving down the street, forced you to get out and let him search your car for stolen objects against your will and without a warrant, simply because you drove the same make and model as a car involved in a robbery a couple of months ago. It is illegal. And even if you were the robber, and you did have stolen goods in your car, none of that evidence could be used against you ever again since the police obtained the evidence by committing a crime themselves. And after evidence obtained and then dismissed as being improperly obtained, it makes it that much harder for that person to be convicted because all the good evidence was dismissed. That really is how conviction due to online tracking should be treated. Unless the government has a warrant, which is only given with probable cause, to search your online traces, they should not be able to obtain that information.