Who knows the most about you? Your spouse? Your parents? Your children?
If you regularly use your phone, tablet, or computer, the answer to that question is probably your search engine. Unless you go out of your way to protect your data, like turning the tracking services off, everything that you search for and every link that you click on is logged on a server somewhere, filed away in a digital drawer with your name on it. This information is supposed to be private (of course, it really isn’t all that private). All that information, just sitting there…
If you use Google as your search engine, that information is not private at all. Yahoo News recently reported that, “the US government is reportedly secretly issuing warrants for Google to provide user data on anyone typing in certain search terms.” Yes, you read that right. The federal government is breaking into the school at night and raiding your supposedly private digital permanent record.
Called “keyboard warrants,” Forbes reports on accidentally-unsealed court records proving the Feds issued a sweeping keyboard warrant for all Google users who searched for specific names, addresses, or phone numbers. While it was not disclosed just how many users’ data ended up in that data set, you can imagine that it was many, many more than were actually involved in a crime.
So Google, an allegedly private business, keeps a file on you and the federal government can secretly put their little hands in the cookie jar whenever they want. They can go on fishing expeditions, casting their net based on search terms they don’t like. Given that the DOJ just suggested that any parent who questions the public school curriculum is a domestic terrorist, you can see how that could be a huge threat to individual liberty and personal privacy.
It’s a true David vs. Goliath situation. Google—the tech monolith that knows basically everything about you—is “cooperating” (re: colluding) with the swollen, power-drunk, and ruthless federal government to unreasonably target individuals, in complete disregard of the rights granted by the First and Fourth Amendment. The First Amendment grants every individual freedom of speech and assembly. These freedoms do, in fact, extend to the internet. Even more prescient, the Fourth Amendment reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I’m sorry but, searching something in Google does not constitute probable cause and secretly issuing warrants does not describe “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The Bill of Rights represents David’s shield against Goliath, but the Constitutional Framers knew that eventually, Goliath would become too powerful to be held at bay. This is precisely why the Framers did not leave David without any recourse.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution gives states the right to propose and ratify amendments to the Constitution through a Convention of States. This is not a free-for-all, but a very rigid process where 34 states must pass the exact same legislation calling for an amending convention, delegates from those states must agree on all proposed amendments, and 38 states must vote to ratify before the Constitution is altered. The Framers included this provision precisely to allow the people, through the proxy of their state government, to check the power of the federal government.
Convention of States Action (COSA) is a non-profit, grassroots organization dedicated to helping citizens inspire their state legislatures to call a Convention of States. In particular, each COSA state chapter works with their legislatures to pass a resolution that calls for a “Convention of the States under Article V for the purpose of restraining...abuses of power [by the federal government],” especially improper and imprudent spending, overreaching federal mandates that invade the role of the states, and ceasing “to live under a proper interpretation of the Constitution.” So far, 15 states have adopted the resolution.
Certainly colluding with global, colossal companies to boldly disregard the First and Fourth Amendments constitutes a gross abuse of power and an unwillingness to live under a proper interpretation of the Constitution. The Framers did not anticipate the global internet, tech companies, and effectively unlimited storage capacity, but they understood one universal truth—absolute power corrupts absolutely. Any government as powerful as America’s will eventually descend into tyranny and when that happens—when the paranoia and irrationality that accompanies any authoritarian regime emerges—the people must have the power to right the ship.
Article V gives us the power to update the Constitution to account for the unimaginable developments of the last 250 years. So much regarding the digital sphere is left up to interpretation, and one usually much more sympathetic to those that are poised to profit. Without clear lines drawn in the sand, the federal government will continue to steal cookies in the dead of night. We need our state governments to feel emboldened to draw those lines. Sign the COS petition to indicate to your state legislators that you demand they stand up to Goliath and put a stop to abuses of power like the D.C.-Silicon Valley alliance.
Julia Campbell is a State Content Writer for Convention of States Michigan.