Good catch from Pam Hess of the AP. At an intelligence conference last month, the nation's number-two intelligence official, Don Kerr, contended that you shouldn't expect the government to protect your anonymity. At least one prominent civil libertarian tells TPMmuckraker that Kerr should resign if his remarks reflect what he believes.
Kerr, the chief deputy to intelligence chief Michael McConnell -- he of questionable credibility concerning the Bush administration's surveillance programs -- contended last month that anonymity is an outmoded component of citizens' reasonable privacy expectations. Technology has influenced social interaction to such a point where people don't blanch at giving Amazon their credit card numbers or posting personal information on social-networking websites. While the government should protect privacy, shielding anonymity "isn't a fight that can be won." Kerr, it should be noted, was previously the director of the National Reconnaissance Office, which is in charge of the nation's spy satellites.
Some civil libertarians read Kerr's remarks as at odds with long-standing legal privacy protections. At least one tells TPMmuckraker that it's time for Kerr -- who was just confirmed as McConnell's deputy on October 4 -- to find a new line of work. "The Constitution protects the right of anonymity," says Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "If Mr. Kerr does not believe he can uphold the Constitution, he should resign."
Kerr shied away from teasing out the implications of his statement when asked. ("It's a personal question that everyone, in a way, has to answer for themselves," said Kerr -- who, remember, is a government official presumably not willing to allow 300 million people the leverage to decide, say, how much surveillance the government can perform.) But here's the heart of the argument (pdf):
Anonymity results from a lack of identifying features. Nowadays, when so much correlated data is collected and available -- and I'm just talking about profiles on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube here -- the set of identifiable features has grown beyond where most of us can comprehend. We need to move beyond the construct that equates anonymity with privacy and focus more on how we can protect essential privacy in this interconnected environment.
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