Secret Searches on Verge of Approval

Our esteemed lawmakers are at it again, in the process of passing laws that severely curtail fundamental freedoms. This time they’re going after what’s left of the Fourth Amendment, with a proposal to drastically expand government powers to conduct secret searches, as I note in my Tuesday column. (They’re also targeting the First Amendment, but those provisions seem blatantly unconstitutional.)

If you care about your fundamental liberties, you need to call your member of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senators — today — to tell them not to let this happen. If your member happens to be on the House Judiciary Committee, all the better, because that committee is scheduled to bring up one of the offending bills in a meeting tomorrow.

Here’s a link to the Judiciary membership roster.

To find your own member of Congress, visit and type in your zip code in the “Find Your Reps” area near the top of the page. You’ll see pictures of your representative and U.S. senators. Click on “info” under each picture for the phone numbers of their Capitol offices and the district offices in your state.

Online Privacy Get FTC Support

Forgive me for modest skepticism, but I doubt the Federal Trade Commission’s desire to regulate online privacy (AP) will get far this election year. It’s still a welcome break from the agency’s previous policy of hearing and seeing no evil.

Congress has an even bigger issue to address. Privacy in general is eroding at an ever-quickening rate, and offline companies such as credit bureaus and catalog marketers are at least as dangerous as the online folks — and they have a lot more data to sell. Meanwhile, phone companies are claiming the right to sell or trade your calling records.

Yes, it’s all going online, making access to individual dossiers even easier than before. But it’s vital to remember, in any look at the question of privacy, that the problems are not solely about Internet companies.

Another Online Retailer in Trouble

I’m sorry for the employees of Toysmart, the online store that was shut down (AP) by parent company Disney. I’m not sorry for the message this sends — that rationality is becoming part of the economic cyber-scene.

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