The vanishing Fourth Amendment forcing data-obsessed Silicon Valley to cut back on data retention

The Law of Unintended Consequences is operating in Silicon Valley, as it does everywhere.  In the wake of the FBI’s attempt to force Apple to break its own encryption on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists, high-tech companies are realizing that the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure no longer operate as they once did.

Elizabeth Dwoskin writes in the Washington Post:

“We have to keep as little [information] as possible so that even if the government or some other entity wanted access to it, we’d be able to say that we don’t have it,” said Gadea, founder and chief executive of Envoy. The 30-person company enables businesses to register visitors using iPads instead of handwritten visitor logs. The technology tracks who works at a firm, who visits the firm, and their contact information.

In Silicon Valley, there’s a new emphasis on putting up barriers to government requests for data. The Apple-FBI case and its aftermath have tech firms racing to employ a variety of tools that would place customer information beyond the reach of a government-ordered search.

The trend is a striking reversal of a long-standing article of faith in the data-hungry tech industry, where companies including Google and the latest start-ups have predicated success on the ability to hoover up as much information as possible about consumers.

Now, some large tech firms are increasingly offering services to consumers that rely far less on collecting data. The sea change is even becoming evident among early-stage companies that see holding so much data as more of a liability than an asset, given the risk that cybercriminals or government investigators might come knocking.

The article does not even mention the use of “administrative subpoenas” – the practice of bureaucrats acting without a judge demanding information from private individuals and companies – but that is a growing threat to privacy.  And tech will realize this soon enough.

The ability of information technology to gather and store information has powered our economy for the last three decades.  Thanks to government overreach, the driver of innovation and growth may have reached its limit, at least until the Fourth Amendment starts being enforced.

Hat tip: Mark J. Fitzgibbons, Instapundit

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