Dating back to 1789, the Bill of Rights was enacted establishing personal freedoms to protect the public from and thereby limit the Federal Government. Not very long after, the states ratified these laws so these freedoms applied equally to action by state governments. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted in response to the abuses of the British government and to prevent unlawful searches and seizures. The earlier decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the 4th Amendment to bar actual and physical intrusion by law enforcement into &/or on one’s private property. Later decisions, however, rightfully expanded the limitations on the government to our individual rights to privacy.
But the question of governmental intrusion is no longer the only conundrum we face in society. There is what could be labeled a scourge of interference in our right to privacy through expanded and invisible electronic surveillance (for the purpose of this blog, however, the author is not referencing CCTV or other types of concealed commercial video cameras).
Focusing instead on the internet, our email, cell phones and text messages, have you given any thought to the impact on our right to privacy, a concern that did not exist during the previous four centuries? Today, businesses are extracting information from the content of our messages, whether email, text, cell phone or simply browsing (surfing) the internet. They are recording the words we use and the places we visit to build profiles of who we are and our interests, collecting the data and selling it to other companies.
Should you have a concern that businesses and individuals are able to and actually monitor and secretly eavesdrop into our private lives? For example, one decides to go online to research the availability and prices for binoculars for an outdoor event they intend to obtain tickets for, an otherwise ordinary and uneventful activity. The next time that individual searches the internet for something totally different, even a newsworthy article, there will be advertisement banners for binoculars in the headers of the pages. Similarly, customer data in our emails are scanned by the various email providers and soon thereafter one will view contextual advertisements dealing with words and subjects that otherwise one might believe his/her emails were totally private and protected.
What do you think? Should your personal information be your own? Should you have a right to privacy and expect that what you view online, what you write or receive in an email or text is not accessed by anyone, whether government, business or any private individual? Should heretofore unidentified companies know everything about us, our interests, our family and friends, under the stated goal to sell advertisements that are intended to solicit our business? Is there a risk of fraud &/or unlawful activity well beyond what may seem an ostensible commercial purpose when data mining produces what we heretofore believed were our very private personal profiles? You be the judge.