Internet Surveillance Policies

Posted: April 30, 2013 by Nikolas Sartin-Tarm in The Cons
Anti ACTA Berlin - Guy Fawkes

Anti ACTA Berlin – Guy Fawkes (Photo credit:

Katz Vs. United States

This was an act passed in 1967 stating that the interception of communications is a search, and a warrant is required.  This was used in wiretapping, which became increasingly more prevalent during the Cold War.  However, this notion would carry on past audible communications and onto the Internet.  This law was imposed off the Fourth Amendment, which requires that all searches and seizures are backed up by a warrant, which is obtained through probable cause.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Passed in 1978, which created a secret federal court to issue warrants for wiretapping.  This law was created in light of the Watergate Scandal of 1972, where wiretapping through telephone wires exposed the malice of Richard Nixon.  The law also allowed for surveillance of communication devices to be done to non-US citizens without a warrant.  This led to a great amount of surveillance being done by the FBI for foreign intelligence.

Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act

A controversial law passed in 1994 requiring all telecommunications companies to make it possible for the government to wiretap all communications.  This was passed in light of recent technology, such as the fiber optic system and cellular communications, that made it harder for the government to wiretap.  This was also passed just as the Internet began to take off, and was first used through the Internet as a medium for voice-over-Internet protocol.

The Patriot Act

A new provision enacted by President Bush following the traumatic 9/11 attacks.  The act made it easier to obtain foreign intelligence and track down terrorism suspects.  Basically the Act allowed for law enforcement to use surveillance for crimes of terror, and federal agents could track down terrorists through web surveillance.  Also, it called for new technology to override suspects with anti-tracking devices.  The act also led to new technology for information sharing between the government.  While it was praised by some for helping to track down terrorism suspects, many people felt that it was too restrictive of their internet rights.  It is still a very controversial law.


The Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act were proposed by Congress in 2012, which became extremely controversial by both internet companies and internet users.  Interpretations of the law led to blackouts and internet protests, as many were worried that their liberties were being taken away.   SOPA was designed to protect copyrights and intellectual property.  However, this would be done by monitoring networks and censoring websites that that are not in accordance with the notion.  By monitoring the content that is posted, only content that is original would be allowed, restricting a great deal of information.  PIPA was more created to regulate websites, both domestic and foreign, of distribution of counterfeit goods.  This monitoring of user-generated content would have a debilitating impact on the Web 2.0.


Like SOPA and PIPA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement set up federal provisions to protect against internet fraud.  This act also aimed to use secret agencies, instead of ones like the WTO, to protect digital security.  ACTA was an international act, that has only been ratified in Japan, but forces countries to begin monitoring IP networks.  The act, which was really controversial, was finalized in closed-door sessions, and would boost both internet surveillance and censorship.


The latest of the controversial online protection acts, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act allows for corporations to share user data with the National Security Agency in order to obtain domestic intelligence.  It creates a loophole that allows for the government to monitor internet use without a warrant; for example, it would provide for increased use for a program called EINSTEIN which automatically tracks IP addresses of people that have given threats against the federal government.  The law also protects against private sector corporations that use surveillance software to track Internet users.  This new provision has commonly been seen as an infraction of the Fourth Amendment.

This is a video talking about CISPA and all the harm it would cause.

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