Liberally yours: Should the Post Office be in charge of your e-mails?

TheDC is proud to present our latest column, “Liberally Yours,” featuring the number one progressive radio host in the nation Thom Hartmann. Each week, he’ll kick off the discussion on a particular topic from a liberal perspective, followed by a conservative or libertarian rebuttal, and so on. This week, his interlocutor is Daily Caller opinion editor J. Arthur Bloom, and they’ll be considering the merits of the government getting into the e-mail business. Without further ado, here’s Thom:

Back in 1773, Sam Adams and a bunch of his friends met at a bar in Boston for a very important meeting. Before they started talking they made sure that no British spies were in the bar or in the immediate area. When they were sure that they were meeting in complete privacy, Sam Adams and his friends began conversations that ultimately led to the Boston Tea Party. To this day, we only know the names of 3 or 4 participants in the Boston Tea Party because the men who participated in it kept their promises to each other and put privacy above all else. Without privacy the Boston Tea Party would not have been possible. And therefore America would never have happened.

Fast forward to today: thanks to America’s out-of-control security state and above-the-law corporations, the expectation of privacy that the Boston Tea Partiers had in 1773 seems like only a dream today. Just ask Google. The internet giant thinks that Americans shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy. In a brief filed last month in federal court as part of a class-action lawsuit against Google for violating wiretap laws when it scans emails to serve up targeted ads, the company said that,”all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing.” Google went on to say that, “Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS provider in the course of delivery.”

Unfortunately Google is right to an extent. Because it’s a corporation, Google can write any damn Terms and Conditions it wants and force its users to abide by them by requiring them to click the “I Agree to the Terms and Conditions” box to agree before signing up for Gmail service. And buried deep within Google’s Terms and Conditions the company does say that it “will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google when we have your consent to do so.” But how many people actually read those Terms and Conditions? Most people could be signing away their lives and wouldn’t even know it.

In today’s age of diminishing privacy and increased corporate control, has it reached the point that instead of fearing the government we need to be fearing the corporate state? Maybe it’s time to hand control of our emails over to the federal government and the Post Office. After all, if the government were to provide email service, the Terms and Conditions of that service would be written by elected legislators, answerable to we the people. If we don’t like them we can elect new legislators to change them. And because they’re law, unlike with Google, if someone snoops on them, they can go to jail. After all, it’s currently a federal crime to open up another person’s first-class mail in the United States, and those same protections and laws could easily be applied to emails as well.

So, should the Post Office be in charge of email in the United States? Or at the very least be allowed by law to provide a secure encrypted email service alternative to Americans?