The fourth amendment in the US Constitution guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In the high-tech 21st century, this amendment goes beyond a police officer allowing him or her self through the front door of your home and looking around. After the September 11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, the US government enacted the Patriot Act of 2001 in order to enhance security against both international and domestic terrorism. The Patriot Act gained a great deal of attention due to the controversy of whether the act invaded on the American people’s individual privacy. Just months ago, Edward Snowden, a former employee of the National Security Agency (NSA), leaked a mass surveillance program used by the agency, which outraged many American people who felt that the leaker only confirmed their previous suspicion of the US government’s intrusion in their private lives. In the past week, those suspicious of American intrusion gained more support in their argument when a great deal of US ally government’s discovered that the NSA had been spying on not only individuals in their country, but on their governments and government officials.
Part of the American culture is individualism and one’s right to privacy. With more and more evidence of the US government possibly intruding in the lives of not only Americans but international allies, some people may question where is the line drawn, especially with consideration of the fourth amendment? This a tough question to answer because there are many underlying questions that must be answered first. For example, is the US government only trying to look after the safety of its people? If so, is one willing to compromise a portion of their privacy in order to assure the safety of their country or themselves?
When considering privacy issues, it’s near inevitable that George Orwell’s novel 1984 comes to mind. In 1984, Orwell introduces the idea of “Big Brother” and an overwhelming government that watches its citizens every single move. No one wants a “Big Brother” watching their every action, but at the same time that nearly guarantees the safety of each individual.
Although I’m not pleased with the idea that the government spies on anyone, I’m also not outraged or feel that my freedom is under attack. According to research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and America Life Project, 61% of Americans own some form of a smart phone. On these smart phones, one can use maps, applications and Facebook messenger, just to name a few, which require the registration of a location by the user. Just as using a WiFi network at a coffee shop, these are all actions that have the capability to minimize our privacy, but still something many Americans do voluntarily every day.
In the high-tech world that we live in, our privacy is almost always vulnerable to attack through the use of cell phones, computers and the Internet. Not only does the government have the capability to see our usage of these devices, but many individuals have the technological knowledge to do so as well. Therefore, those who are leery of privacy invasion should approach technology usage with caution due the inevitable consequences that come with it, similar to when a parent tells their child to be careful what they post on Facebook.
Ultimately, individuals in America and around the world voluntarily edge themselves closer to the minimization of their own privacy each time they use their map, post something on Facebook from their phon, or even Tweet. If they don’t mind their friend knowing their exact location that is fine, but that information registers to some tower near by, which is accessible to many people who they may not want seeing their message. With more technology comes more responsibility.