But First, the Bill

 
 
By David Rittenhouse  |  Posted 2002-05-28 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


of Rights"> The issue of privacy is a great concern for everyone. A survey sponsored by Dell Computer, conducted in August 2000 by Harris Interactive, revealed that even in the more sanguine days of Internet optimism, loss of personal privacy ranked as an issue of higher concern for Americans than the issues of crime, health care, or the environment. Internet-connected PCs, however, are an ongoing threat to individual privacy. Well categorize and identify the major threats in the pages that follow and offer solutions. The United States Constitution does not expressly list a right to privacy. However, several of the rights that are specifically guaranteed in the "Bill of Rights," inherently assume that a privacy right exists. For example; the Fourth Amendments guarantee that citizens will be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" implies that privacy is a matter of right. The Fifth Amendments guarantee that a citizen shall not "be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself" indisputably suggests that the right to keep information private was obvious to all. Two drafters of the U.S. Constitution, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, affirmatively demonstrated their right to privacy by publishing The Federalist Papers anonymously (as cited in Crispo & Grosso, 1998). In recent times, this foundational principle of American law was referred to by the United States Supreme Court as "privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment" (Scalia, 2001). The Privacy Act of 1974, as well as laws banning tampering with U.S. Mail, and stalking, are all expressions of the belief that privacy is a citizens right and violation of that right produces unfavorable consequences for the individual and for society as a whole. These laws exist for good reasons.
  • Psychologically, humans have a fundamental need for personal space, and "peace of mind" that their privacy in that space will not be interfered with. One of the most frequent comments heard from burglary victims is how violated they feel that someone was going through their belongings. Even people who do not consider privacy to be a significant concern and feel that they have nothing to hide typically use curtains on their bedroom windows and send mail sealed in envelopes rather than postal cards.
  • Sociologically, people can function better together if boundaries protecting privacy exist. Without privacy, individuals are far less likely to report organized crimes because of the fear of reprisal. Without privacy, individuals are far less likely to pursue AIDS testing, or treatment for other medical conditions that would make them unable to purchase insurance or subject them to ostracism.
  • Philosophically, privacy is an assertion of human individuality. It is a statement that I have the right to control "this" and to decide if it is disclosed to others or not. It is an assertion of ownership that states, "This belongs to me."
  • Politically, privacy serves as catalyst for free expression. Few, if any, citizens would wish to attend any political rally where their car license plate numbers would be recorded and they would be subjected to suspicion or investigation.
  • Legally, privacy is a matter of necessity to avoid the consequences of abuse or mishandling of personal information. The spectrum of potential consequences ranges from identity theft and ruined credit to being a victim of stalking and murder


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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