Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fascism in the World of Azeroth

If anyone feels something creeping up behind them, lurking in the shadows, it's not the bogeyman. It's fascism in our government. Whether it's the seemingly universal calls coming from the national press for machines that see people naked as they go through airports (a cellphone snapshot away from being online for everyone to see), or the newest money-making schemes for cell phone companies -- selling your data to any random cop who asks for it for about $40 a pop, without warrant -- it's clear that there really is someone out there to get you. Government. And this crazy-absurd fear of terrorism and criminals that people seemingly have, irrational though it may be, has a large chunk of society cheering it on.

The latest, most absurd case of this is some poor, young schmuck who got caught selling pot and fled to Canada, though the cops didn't know where he was. The police learned that he may have been playing World of Warcraft, a Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying game where the undead teams up with orcs and night elves team up with gnomes to go kill stuff, with comic-book-styled animation. So, the police send a little letter requesting information, asking if Blizzard had any relevant information which would lead to capture. Blizzard, the company that runs WoW, sent over a package in the mail a few months later -- which lead to the extradition of the kid.

If that weren't enough, the cops involved didn't just get the address from Blizzard, though they had a general location. They went to Google Maps to actually lock down the specific address. Fascism, FTW!

Some people may applaud such a thing, but there was no warrant involved. There was only what essentially amounted to a politely-worded request. To catch a pot dealer. Busy cops, right? If people don't think this is ripe for abuse, they're nuts. Companies shouldn't just go handing over information to the government whenever the government asks for it. They shouldn't turn handing over information to the government into a money-making scheme, as many cell phone companies have done. They should protect that data until cops can get a warrant, otherwise, who knows how sound the information really is that they're asking for? If companies aren't going to protect our civil rights, all they end up being is one, giant loophole in our constitution's due process demands. No matter how anyone looks at it, that's just not kosher.

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