Friday, July 31, 2009

Federal "Cash for Clunkers" Web Site: A Trap?

Glenn Beck reports that the Federal Government's "Cash for Clunkers" web site tricks users into turning over control of their computers to police and intelligence agencies:




He quotes the following language from "Privacy Statement", to which the user must agree before being allowed to use the site:

This application provides access to the DoT CARS system. When logged onto the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the U.S. Government.

Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign.


It sounds like clicking the "I Agree" button might result in cops kicking down your door, or your bank account being frozen, should your computer contain evidence that you've broken some obscure law. If that happened, you would not be able to raise a 4th Amendment objection to this seizure of evidence because you agreed to let the government search your records.

But it's not quite that bad. Greg at The Holy Cause blog did some research into the matter, and the following are his less sensational, but still disturbing, findings:

The text Beck is referring-to is found at the dealer login, not at any consumer site. So Beck’s warnings to “not try this at home” are more show business than anything else. But there is still plenty to answer for. Here is the actual text:

This application provides access to the DoT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the United States Government. It is for authorized use only. Users (authorized or unauthorized) have no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy.

Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign. By using this system, the user consents to such interception, monitoring, recording, copying, auditing, inspection, and disclosure at the discretion CARS or the DoT personnel.

Unauthorized or improper use of this system may result in administrative disciplinary action and civil and criminal penalties.

Unauthorized attempts to defeat or circumvent security features, to use the system for other than intended purposes, to deny service to authorized users, to access, obtain, alter, damage, or destroy information, or otherwise to interfere with the system or its operation are prohibited. Evidence of such acts may be disclosed to law enforcement authorities and result in criminal prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-474) and the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-294), (18 U.S.C. 1030), or other applicable criminal laws. (all emphasis added)

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