Very few aspects of our lives have been untouched since terrorists flew jets into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. But Im optimistic that at least one part of life will remain unchanged: People wont stop worrying about protecting personal privacy.
Since the attacks, a lot has been said about the potential for wireless technology to locate phone users. The development and proliferation of improved technologies that can, for example, help rescue workers find trapped people, may be one of the few positive outcomes of the tragedy.
Nonetheless, the growing importance of such capabilities shouldnt change the right of users to choose when they want information about their location to be known. Even as some of our leaders are calling for the relaxation of rules on government access to communications, many experts dont believe that wireless users will be any more apt to give up their right to protect location information than before the Sept. 11 incident.
Companies developing technology that can locate wireless callers are just as determined now to give users the option to be tracked. Leaders from companies including TeleCommunication Systems and SignalSoft said they believe end users havent budged on their convictions about the right to privacy. TCS and SignalSoft build "opt-in" policies into their technologies so users are always aware when their locations can be known.
While some Americans have generally said they are willing to give up some civil liberties if it means stopping potential terrorists, ask them which freedoms theyd be willing to give up and you get a different take altogether. Seven in 10 people opposed allowing the government to monitor personal phone calls and e-mail, according to a study done by Pew Research Center after the terrorist attacks. Still, 55 percent said they believe people will have to surrender some freedoms to help prevent such terrorist attacks in the future.
Its important for the government to have the tools to pursue terrorists but not at the cost of civil liberties. While it may be a delicate time to argue for privacy rights, we cant forget that those rights have allowed us to be the strong and successful nation that we are.