Basically, they’re following up on permissions they got in the Patriot Act, when we were all still going ‘please take my liberty and give me security and screw Ben Franklin.‘
This is a great post that talks about what such measures can lead to.
Which leads to my perennial post about anonymity. I have not posted about it nearly as much as I thought I had, given that I am persistently cranky about it. Anonymity is very hard to do, and true anonymity is something that has to be worked on persistently and in the face of people who would really prefer that you didn’t. Things like The Onion Router and other things discussed in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother are good starts, and Cryptocat is a valuable tool, and encryption keys are completely fantastic.
But all of these things take effort, and are very different from posting ‘down with the government’ or whatever on your Facebook page. If you’re going to go through the effort of anonymity, if you care about a cause enough to get active in protesting, posting on your Facebook or whatever about it is actually potentially dangerous to you and everyone who liked it out of abiding bitterness over parking tickets.
So if you care about something deeply? Talking casually about it on the internet is probably one of the last things you want to do. In light of the surveillance abilities of even reasonably democratic governments, making sure everything you say online would meet with the approval of a hyper-judemental theoretical grandmother is a safe bet.
Also, for writers, anonymity is almost always the enemy of publicity.