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The PATRIOT Act and the Effects on People and Corporations

The PATRIOT Act and the Effects on People and Corporations

The U.S. government assigned the PATRIOT Act of 2001 to help the criminal investigation and find terrorists who attacked Americans. The aim of the research was to study the effects of the act on people and corporations in the USA and abroad. Among others, the customers of American corporations, Internet users, and members of Arab and Muslim communities suffered the most. Moreover, the act had a negative impact on their privacy rights, health, and cultural recognition. American corporations were obliged to provide the government with private customers’ information without their permission regardless of the geographical location of the company. Even the European companies that were under U. S. law were forced to deliver metadata to the main intelligence agencies of the country. Consequently, such policy resulted in a lack of trust in the government and corporations, increased expenses on innovative biometrical technologies and additional personnel, and reduced customer loyalty to brands and corporations.

In conditions of general fear, chaos, and shock, the U.S. government had to act after the terrorist attack, which was the worst on American soil. In order to protect civilians and find them guilty, the authorities were obliged to design a piece of law. The appearance of the PATRIOT Act has separated society into two sides, namely those who supported it and those who noticed violations in it and were against this measure. Regardless of the personal thoughts of society, the government voted for it and the lawmakers changed the lives of many millions of Americans and non-Americans, influencing both the county’s and international economy, private security, and businesses. The act limited the citizens’ freedom, discriminated against Islam and Arab community members, and forced companies to share private information provided by the customers. In addition, vast information about users’ activity on the Internet was collected and the expenses of corporations on software needed to follow the regulation increased. Therefore, the act influenced both people and corporations negatively, even though the initial aim was positive, namely to find terrorists and avoid new attacks in the future.


The implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act took place on 26 October 2001, six weeks after the terrorist attacks happened in World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon (White, 2016, p. 358). The terrorists were coordinated by the al-Qaeda group, which took full responsibility for the events. The acts killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 (Welch, 2015, p.486). Thus, in order to prevent possible future attacks the U.S. government strengthened anti-terrorism legislation. Particularly, one of the acts announced within this policy is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001” (White, 2016, p.357). A short title of the act is PATRIOT, which was widely used among policymakers, the press, and civilians. Generally, the act’s main responsibility was to protect Americans from terrorism (Edwards, 2018, p.3). It also addressed other topics such as domestic security, investigating terrorism, and protecting the border (White, 2016, p.358). Additionally, the act influenced changes in other laws related to subjects, namely banking, electronic mass surveillance, and immigration (Cole, 2014). This piece of legislation lets government officials avoid administrative barriers and use the same tools to fight crimes and investigate terrorist attacks. Before the announcement of the act, the government did not spend human and financial resources to discover financial transactions as an opportunity for terrorism funds to use money against the country’s citizens and laws. Moreover, since the government financed and improved all the operations, the suspected terrorists were arrested quickly. Consequently, it let the authorities protect the USA effectively by monitoring all the citizens, not only suspected terrorists. Besides, the act did not specify the indicators of how much privacy the individual would have and what amount is missed. This intruded on the social and private life of citizens, violated their right to privacy, and resulted in people from different nations being subjectively imprisoned without appropriate legal protections. The piece of legislation was not accepted by all of the society and many people started to take part in demonstrations against the act.

Effects on People

The act introduced numerous articles that had an impact on all kinds of a population. Generally, the PATRIOT Act influenced all people’s privacy rights. Specifically, the American government collected information about the private life and behavior of citizens, customers, and clients of American companies and migrants that tried to leave or enter the country. Arab community members became hostages of discriminating stereotypes, and the act and U.S. policies reinforced them even more. Furthermore, people around the world felt they are vulnerable to terrorist attacks but the act showed that even the native country or the host country spies on them. Therefore, these approaches have resulted in fear, lack of confidence, and distrust of the government of one of the most powerful and rich countries in the world.

Effects on Citizens

The main effect of the act on American citizens is that they became concerned about preserving their privacy of personal information and behaviors. People know that companies gather much different data about them and are anxious about their security. According to the Pew Research survey among adults, only 1-9% of users are very confident of their information shared with credit card companies, government agencies, landline telephone companies, email providers, cable TV companies, retailers-partners, online video and media sites and social media (Maniam, 2016). The reason is partly in the PATRIOT Act that allowed agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Internal Revenue Service, and the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor U.S. citizens’ electronic communication without their knowledge and store personal data (Edwards, 2018, p.1). As a result, the agencies started to monitor everybody, regardless of their relation to terrorist activities. The PATRIOT Act permitted the government powers to retain personal information about citizens from third parties including universities, Internet providers, libraries, doctors, and bookstores (Cole, 2014). Moreover, it is known that the agencies while gathering information about phone calls, for example, do not record every single word, but rather include general information such as who were the speakers, the time of the call, the frequency of calls, and the duration of a conversation. Partly these details are not opening all the privacy. On the other side, knowing all this information, it is possible to name what kind of relationships is inherent to the speakers, the probable topic they discussed, and the problems they have. In addition, if the agency knows that the speakers are a doctor and a patient, and they connect twice a week and the conversation lasts for 20 minutes, it is not hard to identify that the patient probably has a disease related to the doctor’s field. Therefore, people felt that the government spied on them, even though each citizen deserves privacy in paper, calls, and online activity. Besides, the government agencies were legitimate to search private property without any previous announcement to the owner. Particularly, section 215 of the PATRIOT Act entitled the authorities with the power to collect “tangible things”, namely books, papers, documents, and records. Consequently, the act allowed revising tons of information, since it can help to identify terrorists, but the population was left without rights for private life, personal items, and previously shared information was in danger.

Effects on Specific Communities

The attacks of September 11 resulted in anti-terrorist strategies that the government initiated in order to prevent possible future attacks. The policies were directed at both foreign and domestic terrorists and had a discrimination factor. Specifically, agencies that worked according to such policy watched all people who were tied to the Muslim faith such as Arab and African, Asian Americans, and Hispanics (Awadi & Sharma, 2015). They experienced great psychological pressure and felt shame and discouragement while attending prayer. The PATRIOT Act entitled law enforcement agencies with permission to investigate a targeted group without any constitutional limitations. Moreover, the piece of the law affected the human rights of the Arab population, especially their education and career opportunities (Awadi & Sharma, 2015). Their families were forced to distance themselves from their religion and those who continued practicing Islam faced discrimination. Thus, Arab-American Muslims lost their cultural and religious identity and tried to adopt some coping methods. First and second generations of them felt differently about the circumstances they faced (Awadi & Sharma, 2015). Particularly, the former was more tolerant of U.S. government policies compared to the latter. The reason is that the first generation was grateful to live and work in relative freedom, while the second generation of American Muslims was disappointed with these policies since they felt that their native country attacks their rights as citizens. Regardless of the number of years, these people lived in the USA, the government of this country will always think that Arabs, Islam, and Muslims are a threat to security (Awadi & Sharma, 2015). Consequently, the PATRIOT Act has brought Arab people psychological and sociological troubles that resulted in discriminating strategies.

Effects on Immigrants

According to the PATRIOT Act, the government strengthened the Northern Border with personnel three times. The aim was to improve the monitoring procedure with additional people in the Border Patrol department, Customs personnel, and teams of immigration inspectors (Shusterman, n.d.). In addition, visa applicants had to provide their fingerprints in order to show the staff their full criminal history. The immigrants who were identified as connected with a criminal investigation were denied entry or exit from the United States. Moreover, the act excluded people who were committed to attacks or other crimes related to terrorist organizations within the last five years together with their spouses and children. If the personnel noticed the reasonable grounds that such migrants were connected to terrorists, it was entitled to place them in a removal proceeding for up to the period of 6 months. Since all the airports, land borders, and seaports were equipped with biometric technology and other machine-readable documents, the foreigners had to queue in long lines before and after leaving the USA. However, the rules, first of all, were designed to check people with Arab, Islamic, and Muslim appearance. Even students, who studied in schools and participated in programs, were obliged to ask their educational institution to send the permit to the Attorney General with detailed information on the date, port of entry, and name of the student (Shusterman, n.d.). Therefore, these strategies made the employment, visit, and education of foreigners a complicated procedure.

Effects on Corporations

The PATRIOT Act obliged companies to share information with the government in order to facilitate the investigation process concerning terrorist attacks. The rules regulated the policies of financial and medical corporations, Internet providers, software developers, electronic communication companies, libraries, educational institutions, security intelligence agencies, police and firefighter services, airports, and other transportation providers. Besides, the tourism industry was affected since the flow of tourists significantly decreased as well as the profits of tour agencies, hotels, restaurants, and other related facilities. Since the terrorist act questioned their security, people did not want to travel to the country, which suffered from the attacks. Domestic and international communication providers and financial corporations were affected the most. Particularly, all companies that did business in the USA were obliged to report suspicious people and details that could be related to terrorist organizations and attacks. Thus, the act united all the powers to avoid a threat in the future.

Impact on Communication Providers

The act permitted providers of electronic communication to disclose private information of users to law enforcement officials voluntarily if they suspected a customer of possible attacks, physical injury, or danger to other people’s lives or property damage. National Security Agency (NSA) forced communication providers to share online, telephonic, email, and chat data according to the rights entitled by the Act. “As of mid-2012, the agency was processing more than 20 billion communications events from around the world every day,” writes Greenwald in his book called No Place to Hide (2014). Moreover, only in America alone, the agency stored 1.7 billion types of communications daily. This amount of information is hard to proceed and save for a long time. However, the agency tries to perform this duty, by employing 30 thousand people who use multiple methods. They tap into fiber-optic lines of international communications, redirect messages into NSD repositories, and collaborate with intelligence services in other countries (Greenwald, 2014). Moreover, the agency relies on Internet companies that collect information about their customers and then pass the data to them. NSA, except for its own employees, hires staff from private corporations who provide them with necessary information. “70% of NSA’s national intelligence budget is being spent on the private sector” (Greenwald, 2014). Additionally, the corporate strategic partnership of NSA includes some of the most powerful Internet corporations, namely Network Infrastructure, Hardware Servers, Applications Software, Quest, Motorola, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, Intel, Microsoft, and others (Greenwald, 2014). Even though these companies state in their policies that they are committed to respecting the customer’s privacy and the confidentiality of personal data, traffic, and communication content, they are obliged to share this metadata with the government based on the PATRIOT Act of 2001. Previously the publicity was unaware of the secret agreement between communication providers and lawmaker authority and the policy did not affect the corporations. However, after this information appeared in the press, brand awareness, customer loyalty, and trust in companies failed. Consequently, users accepting the terms and policies of the websites and software programs do not believe in their reliability.

Except for domestic companies, the American government collects the information provided by partners around the world. The geography of such intelligence companies is very wide: the European Union, The United Nations, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Brazil, France, South Korea, and Venezuela (Greenwald, 2014). The massive amounts of data collecting and passing between the countries are possible due to special programs FAIRVIEW, BLARNEY, and STORMBREW, to name a few (Greenwald, 2014). Each of the programs specializes in some data. For example, FAIRVIEW deals with telephone calls and is able to collect more than 6 billion records during a month. PRISM is another program that gathers information directly from the servers of the nine most powerful Internet companies, namely Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, and PalTalk (Greenwald, 2014). These giants signed a secret contract and agreed to provide the government with detailed information, messages, video files, photos, shared files, and records of video chats. Each of the companies has millions of subscribers around the globe and their information is important to investigate the connections between US citizens and foreigners or US citizens who live in other countries. If the U.S. authorities require the information for criminal investigation, these companies are compelled to provide it as well as the domestic communication providers.

Impact on the European Companies

European data stored in the “cloud” is also a subject of U.S. intelligence agencies. The PATRIOT Act avoids laws of European data protection and collects information on EU residents as well. As a result, the surveillance is applied to both citizens and businesses of Europe. The main world cloud providers are Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple based in the U.S., but they service schools, universities, governments, and corporations in foreign countries, and in European Union particularly (Mackey, 2015). The U.S. PATRIOT Act obliged American companies to fulfill the government’s information requests if the companies are subject to U.S. laws (Mackey, 2015). In other words, the U.S. government is allowed to legally force any U.S.-based company to share foreign data for investigative purposes. However, American officials have to receive prior approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to access the data, otherwise, the access is dined (Mackey, 2015). European companies are safe if they are not subjects of American law. Simultaneously, there are no companies in the world, which do not use the products mentioned above corporations. Logically, there are few corporations that the U.S. government cannot reach. On the other side, companies that are not connected to the American authority, are not subjected to the act.

Effects on Financial Corporations

The USA PATRIOT Act aimed to weaken terrorist organizations through financial flows. In this regard, the lawmakers focused on laundering money since this operation is critical to such organizations. Thus, financial institutions were forced to maintain records and transactions, share customer information with each other and authorize suspected money. The President of the U.S. received the power to confiscate the property of any foreigner, either a person or organization that was engaged in attacks against the State (Welch, 2015, p.494). In addition, banks around the USA were obliged to improve standards of identifying customers and report cash transactions over $10,000 (Newman, 2016). Banks had to collect and verify the information received from customers such as birth dates, and copies of driver’s licenses, and compare them to the list of suspected terrorists. Since some financial operations had to be performed in person, the employees of the banks and other financial institutions were compelled to report suspicious people or transactions to the government. The act required banks to increase the criminal and civil penalties for money laundering. Since they had to verify their customers and provide the government with detailed information about their financial activities and transactions, expenses on regulatory compliance increased. This has led to consolidation in the financial industry affecting small banks the most (Newman, 2016). Moreover, in order to follow the demands of the act, banks were obliged to employ more consultants and buy special anti-money laundering software.


In summary, the U.S. anti-terrorism law named the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 was a response to the terrorist attack that resulted in death, property damage, and psychological trauma for all Americans. The act’s aim was to capture the terrorists and avoid future disasters. First of all, the law is characterized by an unprecedented expansion of electronic and telephone surveillance. It resulted in distrust in the U.S. government among both American and non-American citizens, and the European population. Besides, migrants experienced difficulties while entering and leaving the USA. Regardless of the protests, the officials claimed it is needed to detect terrorists, but people felt their privacy rights were violated. Moreover, the act raised discrimination questions and influenced students, consumers of American companies, Internet users, and generally all people around the world. The piece of law affected numerous families, and people’s mental and psychological state. Even though the PATRIOT positively impacted the efficiency of governmental agencies and identification procedures, the corporations were disadvantaged. Increased expenses for the technological resources to identify individuals and additional employees affected banking institutions and transport companies. Additionally, communication providers lost their previous customer loyalty and confidence in the security of stored data. The act permitted to share the information concerning suspicious people, actions, and behavior. Eventually, companies collected, stored, and processed information about everybody, regardless of their relation to the terrorist organizations generally, and al-Qaeda particularly. Therefore, the act was designed to function as a protector, but it negatively affected people and corporations.