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Patriot Act Facilitates Increased Gov’t Demand for Customer Data

Although there has been considerable focus on the Patriot Act as it impacts libraries, this Atlanta-Journal Constitution article details the wider impact of law enforcement’s significantly increased demand for customer data from businesses that range from scuba shops to telecommunications companies. Examples from the article include the following:

  • “Last year, before the Memorial Day weekend, the FBI requested customer information from scuba shops across the country….the Professional Association of Diving Instructors decided to voluntarily hand the information to the FBI…the group sent the FBI a ZIP drive with the names, addresses and other personal information of about 2 million people — nearly every U.S. citizen who had learned to dive in the previous three years.”
  • “Last year, BellSouth received more than 32,000 subpoenas for customer information, about half of those from law enforcement. In addition, the telecommunications giant received 636 court orders, mostly from the government, including requests for wiretaps.”
  • In related news, “Attorney General Ashcroft this week will launch a cross-country barnstorming tour designed to shore up support for the USA Patriot Act….the country’s 94 U.S. attorneys were instructed to help gin up support by convening community meetings, writing op-ed articles in local newspapers and ensuring that uniformed cops are seated in bleachers behind the A.G. during his visits.”
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