The Federal government’s “Cash-for-clunkers” program provides assistance to consumers wishing to trade in their older vehicle for a newer, more fuel-efficient vehicle. But the program’s website contained language in a security warning that stated by agreeing to the terms, the user’s computer and all of its files would become government property.
Last Friday, Fox News commentator Glenn Beck brought attention to the disclaimer on the Cars.gov dealer support page, which originally stated: “When logged on to 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.”
On Monday, The Department of Transportation announced that it had removed the warning and that the department was “working to revise the language.” The warning was posted on the dealer support page of the website, which does not directly affect the consumer.
“They can continue to track you basically forever,” Fox News anchor and former Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle told Beck during an interview. “Once they’ve tapped into your system, and the government of course has like malware systems and tracking cookies – they can tap in any time they want.”
Guilfoyle added that it is “absolutely legal.”
However, Kristin Oehmke, a former lawyer and current legal analyst and advocate for the Bazelon Center of Mental Health Law says that the disclaimer is in fact unconstitutional as it violates the Fourth Amendment rights of those who didn’t agree to the terms, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.
“These dealers by signing up for the website in order to get their money are in fact waiving their rights by agreeing to the terms of the contract,” Oehmke stated in an interview. “But anyone sharing that computer – i.e. the spouse, children, or anyone else – did not agree to such terms and therefore are – or should be – protected under Constitutional rights.”
Oehmke added that “You can not give up your Constitutional rights except in a court of law. But in this case the Federal government seems to have taken away that right.”
The disclaimer has been removed, but whether or not the government’s practice has ended, or if information already obtained is to be destroyed, remains to be seen.
Although the Obama administration is withholding sales data to account for the first $1 billion of taxpayer dollars spent on the program, the Senate voted Thursday night to add an additional $2 billion in funding. After figuring in expenses such as an $18 million website and the creation of numerous government agencies to run the program, it is estimated that the actual cost for each cash for clunkers rebate will be around $6,000.
Originally published at the International Analyst Network
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