Is Anonymity a Right?
Posted at 7:45 a.m. on Jan. 13
Jed Rubenfeld clarifies what personal freedoms are at stake under the NSA surveillance program.
“The NSA program isn’t really about gathering data. It’s about mining data. All the data are there already, digitally stored and collected by telecom giants, just waiting.”
“In the world of data-gathering, the key concept for setting limits on government surveillance is privacy. But in the world of data-mining, the key is anonymity.”
“The question is not whether privacy should be honored but whether anonymity should be protected.”
As Judge Richard Leon cautioned in his ruling against the NSA program, cellphone “metadata can be mined to produce a live-streaming digital portrait of an individual’s entire life.”
“This is an anonymity problem: The NSA cannot create a dossier on you from your metadata unless it knows that you made the calls the agency is looking at.”
“Today, we need a new jurisprudence of anonymity. We need laws and technologies that can break through anonymity when people commit crimes or torts online. But we also need laws and technologies that will protect anonymity when government engages in 21st-century data-mining.”