Sniffing keystrokes and privacy

— 12:11 AM on August 1, 2001

Wired is running an interesting story on the issue of whether or not sniffing keystrokes violates privacy rights.

To hear federal prosecutors tell it, the FBI became so frustrated by Scarfo's use of Pretty Good Privacy software (PGP) to encode confidential business data that they had to resort to extraordinary means. With a judge's approval, FBI agents repeatedly snuck into Scarfo's business to plant a keystroke sniffer and monitor its output.
This is an interesting issue, not so much because it involves The Man spying on you, but rather what sniffing is considered under the law.
Was it akin, he wondered, to a telephone wiretap, regulated by the federal law known as Title III? Perhaps it was a general search of the sort loathed by the colonists at the time of the American Revolution and thereafter outlawed by the Fourth Amendment? Or was it, as the government argued, just like cops rummaging in someone's home or office with a search warrant in hand?
Is this simply another form of wiretapping? Or, perhaps, is it something far more intrusive that should be more strictly regulated?
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