Technology has again outstripped the U.S. Constitution. Just as the framers, in 1790, did not anticipate the development of modern firearms, I am sure they did not anticipate the change in how we communicate with each other. The fourth amendment keeps us safe from unlawful search and seizure of our "person, houses, papers, and effects." It implies that private communications are safe as well. In 1790, private communications would be talking to another person face-to-face in a closed room, sending a letter via the U.S. Postal Service, or, I guess, sending a communique sealed with sealing wax and imprinted with your personal seal via a private courier. You had proof of tampering if the letter was opened, or the seal was broken. You would not expect that shouting a message across the street would be private, because someone else could listen in. Now consider your cel phone signal. It gets transmitted through the ether to a cel phone tower several miles away, then eventually to a satellite orbiting a few hundred miles above the earth, then back down to earth perhaps to a point several thousand miles away from where you are. Can we ever expect that such a message would be immune from someone else, be it a government or a private corporation or even a single hacker, listening in? E-mails have similar journeys, albeit sometimes through many miles of wiring. To think that such messages could be safe from prying eyes seems naive, something that has escaped several prominent figures such as some U.S. congressmen. There seems to be little in the way of obvious proof of tampering either, save the revealing of the message in unintended venues. Please note that such an intangible thing like an electronic communication is neither person, house, paper, nor effect. Thus, the question is, do we have an expectation of privacy with electronic comunications, and if so, how can it be effected?


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Thom plus logo As the world burns, and more and more fossil fuels are being used every day planet-wide, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed 416 ppm this week at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. In the 300,000 years since the emergence of modern humans, carbon dioxide levels have never been this high.