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November 29, 2011

Technology and the Invasion of Privacy Snatchers – A SPN Exclusive Article

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On February 5th, 1956, a science fiction movie titled “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was released in the US. The movie is about a small-town doctor who discovers that the population of his community is being systematically replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.

Fast forward to today, and life is imitating art, with a real life version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers being played out. But it’s not just happening in one small town. It’s happening in cities and towns all across America. Only it’s not bodies that are systematically being snatched, it’s our individual right to privacy.

Where’s Waldo?

“If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day, the public movement of every citizen of the United States.” Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

I just read a disturbing article on the BBC News website titled How Much Privacy Can Smartphone Owners Expect?

Among other things, the article discusses how The US Supreme Court could soon make a ruling allowing police to monitor the movements of US mobile phone users without a warrant – which legitimately begs the question, now that most of us carry sophisticated tracking devices in our pockets, how much privacy do we have a right to expect?

Because if authorities get their way, they won’t have to ask “Where’s Waldo?” They’ll know exactly where he is, because they’ll be monitoring his smartphone.

The Erosion Of Privacy In America

As American citizens, we have the constitutional right not to be subjected to unsanctioned invasion of privacy by individuals, government or corporations. And while those rights are supposed to be protected by the constitution, the truth of the matter is, the erosion of our privacy has been occurring for decades.

And it hasn’t been occurring in a vacuum either. The media has been reporting on invasion of privacy stories for as long as I can remember. In fact, I distinctly remember a huge media story from twenty years ago about a government agency that used thermal imaging devices to locate a marijuana growing operation in Oregon.

On January, 27, 1992, Oregon authorities arrested a man named Danny Lee Kyllo, who was tried and convicted of illegally growing marijuana. Authorities located the marijuana by placing thermal imaging devices outside of Kyllo’s home. However, in 2001 in Kyllo v. United States (533 U.S. 27), the conviction was overturned because it was decided that the use of thermal imaging devices that can reveal previously unknown information without a warrant does indeed constitute a violation of privacy. (Source: Wikipedia)

Warrantless Surveillance

After the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which granted the President broad powers to fight a war against terrorism. The George W. Bush administration used these powers to bypass the FISA court and directed the NSA to spy directly on al Qaeda in a new NSA (National Security Agency) electronic surveillance program. Reports at the time indicate that an “apparently accidental” “glitch” resulted in the interception of communications that were purely domestic in nature. This action was challenged by a number of groups, including Congress, as unconstitutional. Disappointingly, the Obama Administration has continued using these controversial surveillance methods. (Source: Wikipedia)

The ACLU Speaks Out

In anticipation of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the aforementioned United States vs Jones, GPS tracking case, Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in Washington, D.C., said the Supreme Court should uphold the Fourth Amendment and protect private lives against the invasion of government probing.

“The court should apply those values so that as technology becomes more and more powerful, those values can be preserved, not erased,” Spitzer said. “If the Fourth Amendment is to have any continuing meaning, we think the court needs to recognize that just because technology makes something possible, it doesn’t mean it should be allowed.”

Spitzer added that the case will have “strong implications” on whether or not the government needs a warrant to track people using their cell phones. (Source: Homeland Security Newswire)

I’d like to focus your attention on one sentence in particular in the above statement:

“If the Fourth Amendment is to have any continuing meaning, we think the court needs to recognize that just because technology makes something possible, it doesn’t mean it should be allowed.”

That one sentence makes the case for preserving the Fourth Amendment about as well as it can be made.

Where’s The Outrage?

But where’s the outrage over the continued erosion of our privacy? Where are the demonstrations in Washington and in front of the White House?

Since September, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has been taking its anger to the streets, with a grassroots movement and demonstrations worldwide, protesting corporate greed and the financial inequity that exists between Wall Street and Main Street. And there is evidence the movement is working. OWS recently forced Bank of America to nix its proposed $5 a month debit fee. Several other major banks quickly followed suit, announcing they too will nix planned debit fees and other exorbitant surcharges. Demonstrating once again, the squeaky wheel does indeed get the oil.

Unfortunately, there is no squeaky wheel – no organized protests for the blatant and relentless violation of our Fourth Amendment rights.

Sadly, with very few exceptions, when it comes to fighting for our individual rights and freedoms, we are as passive as a flock of sheep. And unless and until that changes, authorities will continue to think they can simply trample on our freedoms without any consequences. Because as things stand right now, they can.

The Power Of Technology

TV shows like Forensic Files and CSI demonstrate the tremendous power and potential of technology in law enforcement. I am absolutely fascinated by how scientists are able to solve crimes with DNA evidence, animal hairs and insect larvae. It’s nothing short of amazing!

Unfortunately, along with that tremendous power comes the potential for abuse. Because in addition to being able to legally solve crimes using technology, police can also illegally track the movements of innocent citizens, via the mobile phones we carry in our pockets and GPS devices in our vehicles.

And while technology has unquestionably made our lives easier, it has also made it easier for authorities to violate our right to privacy under the guise of “protect and serve,” and then attempt to use the courts to back them up in their unconstitutional actions.

The Potential For Abuse

Police departments that use such technology argue, devices such as GPS monitors and mobile phone tracking software are critical in today’s environment of high-tech criminals. They maintain using such technology is not a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights, and simply makes it easier to conduct surveillance, which has already been approved by the law.

To support their argument, they point to the fact, a court order is usually required before they are allowed to employ such measures.

But there’s a fatal flaw in their argument. Because the fact of the matter is, a court order is NOT required for all police departments across the country. That’s right, a court order is not required in every state of the union, in order to track and monitor our activities using mobile devices. And therein lies the problem, and the very real potential for abuse.

Conclusion

There’s a very bizarre twist to all of this. Every day, millions of us knowingly and willingly invade our own privacy rights on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others, sharing personal and often intimate details with the entire world. By participating on these sites, we are, in fact, already broadcasting our location to anyone who wants to both use and abuse such information.

Which begs the question: If we are already violating and snatching away our own privacy rights, how can we then turn around and protest against, with any modicum of credibility whatsoever, invasion of privacy?

It’s the epitome of irony, and quite the conundrum, don’t you think?


David Jackson is a marketing consultant, and the owner of Free-Marketing-Tips-Blog.com – Powerful, href="http://free-marketing-tips-blog.com/">free marketing tips to help grow your business! http://free-marketing-tips-blog.com

14 Responses to “Technology and the Invasion of Privacy Snatchers – A SPN Exclusive Article

    avatar Cary says:

    I’ve suspected for a long time now that the typical American simply doesn’t care about personal right to privacy. Either that, or the current generation takes it so for granted that there is no expectation of privacy, that they don’t even comprehend what it means or what relevance it has in their lives.

    Sadly, I have to agree with you on both counts.

    avatar remonatrix says:

    Listen, when the majority of Americans relate to democracy as the possibility of voting someone off an Island and ensuring American Idol airs once a week … you really expect them, as a majority, to actually understand privacy issues ?

    Also, after 911, the propaganda that ensued regarding private citizens rights and the patriot act dumbfounded the whole concept.

    Sad state of affairs …

    Hmmmm…Perhaps my next article should be titled “The Dumbing Down of America.”

    avatar Former Marine says:

    David; this is another interesting article telling the truth about our country and how many freedoms we’re rapidly losing to Big Brother and the corrupt politicians we’ve elected to protect and defend those freedoms, instead of ripping them out from under our feet at a rapid monthly rate.

    It saddens me to see where America is going, especially when you stated “Disappointingly, the Obama Administration has continued using these controversial surveillance methods.” How true that is!

    avatar Adrian Head says:

    And of course the privacy issue is not confined to the police or governmental bodies. One only has to recall the comment by Google’s CEO, which I don’t recall exactly but the gist was, “if you don’t want people to know what you are doing maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place” to realize that your private life is now open to scrutiny by all and sundry.

    avatar Robert says:

    “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild,[1] and government to gain ground.” – Thomas Jefferson

    Unfortunately, the grievous breaches of the 4th amendment don’t seem relevant to most people, unlike the beefs the OWS or Tea Party have taken to the street about.
    It’s also not easy for many to step up and defend marijuana growers, or other illegal activity ensnared by these breaches. However this is how we lose our principles…by not defending them for unpopular or offensive cases.
    Very sad to see all us sheep submitting to our masters.

    Adrian, you’re absolutely right. The invasion of our privacy exists in every segment of society – in both the private and public sector.

    avatar Jesus Olvera says:

    Excellent article David. Our freedom and privacy is precious. Many lives have been lost in the fight to preserve what we have. Although many take this for granted because our constitution says so. But the erosion of our rights to freedom and privacy can be blamed on the people because they think it will always be there.

    Thank you, Jesus. I agree with you 100%. Much of the blame lies with society as a whole. Instead of fighting back when our freedoms are violated, we are both complacent and passive.

    avatar David Lloyd says:

    I agree with you completely. I am amazed at the response I get from my circle of friends when I discuss the problem. They are so numb they don’t see their freedoms disappearing right under their noses and sont seem to care.
    Frankly, my concern is not for my generation but for that of my children and grandchildren. They will not forgive us for nonchalantly giving away their freedoms!

    avatar Riptide Tempora says:

    Two things:

    1. The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) stands at the forefront of these digital rights and consumer privacy battles, on our side. They conjure up plenty of outrage when they announce Congress’s latest barrage of unconstitutionality.

    2. I recently wrote an alternative to TinyChat (click my name) that guarantees privacy as long as it’s used intelligently. (I’m writing a tutorial this weekend on that very subject.)

    This generation doesn’t seem at all concerned about privacy issues. I doubt future generations will either.

    avatar Debrah Owens says:

    Hi David
    I’ve been searching for articles on this very important subject we’re calling an invasion of privacy. It is more than that, it is a disgrace of the human race from all walks of life. The Question is now, what are we going to do about it? Our children and grandchildren will think that that the way our government is running the country is the proper way to lead the country. Do we continue to allow the government to lend a deaf ear and turn a blind eye to the way we are being treated? It me back ok!

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