Ray Ozzie, the creator of Lotus Notes and Microsoft’s former software head, joined the chorus of technical leaders pushing back on the government’s far-reaching surveillance program.
“I hope that people wake up, truly wake up, to what’s happening to society, from both a big brother perspective and little brother perspective,” he said during the Nantucket Conference.
He said that, after Sept. 11, the pendulum had swung too far towards government surveillance and data gathering
“We got what we asked for, and now it’s time to pull it back,” Ozzie said, referencing the near-unanimous passage of the PATRIOT Act, noting the danger that broad data gathering operations present. “Imagine if you had an administration targeting journalists or groups of people based on political leanings.”
The current administration, of course, is facing allegations that it did just that, with the Department of Justice secretly obtaining Associated Press phone records and investigating a Fox News reporter’s personal emails while the IRS is facing allegations it focused audits on politically conservative groups.
Ozzie has been an advocate of strengthened online privacy and serves on the board of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a group that has been instrumental in bringing to light much of the government’s surveillance. He also said that current protections are simply inadequate and outdated.
“The privacy act that we’re operating under right now was written in 1974,” he noted. “What’s happened since 1974?” For example, he was critical of third-party doctrine, which holds that information given to a third-party — such as a phone company, an email host, or social network like Facebook or Twitter — essentially waives Fourth Amendment protections “against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Given how much information is stored digitally, that means a much wider array of information is now available without probable cause.
“It’s really dangerous,” Ozzie said. “I hope that what’s happened in the past few days gets people riled up. This is a non-partisan issue. I hope people wake up a little bit more and don’t just build apps and say, I’m going to sell private information for ads.”