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Its Personal

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Danispence1
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Its Personal!
Eng:121
June 23, 2013

It’s Personal! A Look At Privacy In The 21st Century
There is no doubt that there is a lack of privacy in the 21st century, but is it our choice? How much is under the control of our own actions and how much is implemented by the government? Surely there is good that comes from having an “invisible” eye watching and recording certain daily actions, but are we more susceptible to threats because some of our privacy is literally stripped from us? I never got a choice if I wanted google earth to take a picture of my house to display to the world, or my name and family history to be available to anyone that googled it. Criminals are off the street because of cameras, terrorists are being tracked by computer, and it sure is nice to find old friends by looking online. The 21st century has introduced us to new technology that makes our lives a little easier however, privacy seems to diminish with every click of a mouse. Perhaps we can argue that the use of advanced technology is threatening our fourth amendment rights.
Privacy is a concept that has been interpreted in many different ways. “In the United States, the concept of privacy has evolved since it was first articulated by Justice Brandeis in 1898. His definition of privacy-"The right to be let alone" (as cited by Berman & Bruening, 2001, Para 6)- has been influential for nearly a century (Berman & Bruening, 2001). This definition seems to give a good definition of what we would like privacy to be. For centuries, even before the internet the government has had secret ways of following individuals that may be a threat based on groups they were a part of, religion, and political expression. It was brought to the attention of Christopher Pyle, a professor at Mount Holyoke College while he was teaching in the Army in 1967. He focused on teaching law at the Army’s intelligence school, showing maps, configurations of parks, etc… One day he was approached by an officer with more information than he could believe. The officer showed him what they called the “black list”, which held reports of some fifteen hundred Army operatives about demonstrations of twenty people or more. Pyle realized that they were creating files on millions of Americans engaged in completely lawful activities. In 1970 he wrote an article that brought so much attention and scrutiny to the U.S. Army intelligence agency that they shut down domestic surveillance. This would result on other agencies being watched and soon a series of laws aimed at curbing government abuses were implemented (Robert O' Harrow, 2005).
The Privacy Act of 1974 gave some privacy rights back to the people. The Privacy Act allowed people to know what the government was collecting and sharing about them. Some felt that this law along with others put up too much of a wall between law enforcement and criminals. Unfortunately, the acts of September 11th would not only loosen those laws but change our right to privacy completely. Congress enacted the USA Patriot Act in 2001, this allowed for law enforcement and FBI agencies to use information that was already available to follow terrorist activity, drug trafficking and criminal activity any way possible (www.justice.gov). The government was now able to ask employers to provide them with employee e-mail information. In attempt to catch criminals and terrorists, cameras were placed on streets, in shopping malls, and even embedded in products and clothing. The public was unaware of where and what was being monitored, nowadays it’s a better assumption that you “are” being watched rather than “if”. Names were run through a data base for any type of activity that could be a potential threat. Most Americans were more than willing to give up some amount of privacy in trade for more security. However, no one knew the outcome and trials it would put millions through as a result.
We have all heard of the “no fly list”, a list documented by the government of people that are on a watch list for terrorism or criminal activity. A name would be put into a database when someone wanted to fly, if it came up on the no fly list, they were excluded from flight. This seemed to be a good idea however, many Americans were targeted because of having a similar name of someone that is a threat, past charges, or even due to identity theft. Voters were turned away in the 2000 election because of inappropriate accusations and untrue information provided to the government. It took years for most people to clear their name from the list, but they still lost their right to vote, which is a right that was fought for. It seems that instead of targeting the people that should be being watched, we became a society of having to prove ourselves innocent without even knowing our guilt. There is a fine line between defending our country and targeting law abiding citizens. In a country of freedom and pride we of course want to be safe, but unfortunately it seems that some of the technology that is supposed to keep us safe has, at times, turned against us.
“The Fourth Amendment, originally intended to protect citizens from physical searches and seizures, establishes an expectation of privacy in communications as well. New technologies that enhance the ability of law enforcement to monitor communications and compile an array of information about an individual test the limits of Fourth Amendment protections and require that we revisit and redefine our established ideas about this constitutional protection” (Berman & Bruening, 2001). The argument exists that while giving law enforcement the ability to find out information on any individual may violate privacy, it also could and has kept us safe by keeping criminals off the street. As the above example shows, the problem is that some of the privacy we all feel is gone is not always being used for good. Perhaps a more innocent example; a lady at the mall fell into a fountain while texting, the tape was put on YouTube and shown to the world. A mistake that may have been funny and easy to get past, is now something she is recognized for. What about that red light you accidentally ran and so grateful no cop was around , well these days you get a ticket in the mail with your picture and a fine to pay. In both situations maybe there were lessons learned such as, not to walk and text or to run a red light. Ten years ago these things would not have been an issue and would have been brushed under the rug. This also brings up the subject of social networking and how things can be shared with others within moments, all by going online.
Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks have the ability to use any information, pictures or quotes that are posted on the web site. In the beginning of social networking we did not think of the issues and problems these specific sites could impose. Social networking became a fun and easy way to share our lives with family and friends. With the concern of privacy being taken away from us, it seems with social networking we are doing the exact opposite of trying to protect ourselves. By posting our everyday actions on Facebook, or even by participating in online surveys we open ourselves up to the world. With time we have become more and more relaxed about what we share with whomever has access to the internet. There have been numerous lawsuits, complaints and even lives that have been destroyed by social networks. Laws and legal sites have been created in some cases to protect the site itself, and even ways to make things “private” on your own page. The question is if privacy is such a concern wouldn’t posting family pictures, daily thoughts and even ones relationship status violate those concerns? What is our definition of privacy these days? Society seems to have an unbalanced idea of privacy and where the responsibility lies when it is violated.
Companies offer discounts to people that sign up as a member, or participate in online surveys. By doing so you are giving away information about household income, employment, family members, addresses, and phone numbers. “Many commercial Web sites carry privacy notices which are supposed to explain how customer information is used. But even if dotcoms claim they’d never sell user profiles based on cookies to unaffiliated third parties, what happens when that dotcom is bought by somebody else” (Mur, 2005). Great question, any information obtained could be used by anyone that has the ability to get their hands on it. Even if a site does have a privacy notice it does not guarantee that your information will remain forever safe. Society seems to be okay with giving out information that may help in the long run with a discount, or maybe even the social circle, but when it is used for something we did not intend it becomes a violation of the Fourth Amendment. “When the Veterans Administration lost a laptop with 26.5 million Social Security numbers on it, the agency felt the lash of righteous indignation from the public and law makers alike” (Sullivan, 2011). It almost seems impossible to find a healthy balance between privacy and technology use.
Technology has become a way of life in America, and as Americans we continue to accept anything that makes our lives a little easier. Navigation systems, smart phones, laptops, Skype, this list could go on and on. I enjoy these things myself, but it is a little scary to look at the reality of it all. Think about going to your favorite coffee place, or that place in the park you like to go study “alone”. Ever notice the little black boxes that may look like nothing at first glance, but you soon realize it is a camera. How about driving in your car that has GPS, every place you are driving past is being recorded, every moment. Smart phones have the same capabilities, by logging themselves into every cell tower just about every movement and phone call can be found. Have you ever purchased a pass on the BART in San Francisco with a credit card, or any transportation for that matter, well that is being recorded too. Many people may say that if they are not doing anything wrong, there is no reason to be concerned. If the invisible eye is doing us good and just keeping us safe, then in legal terms I would agree. However, what about the invisible eye that is no good at all? One of the voters turned away in 2000 was a salesman named Matthew Frost. As he stepped up to the toll booth to vote he was told “Sir, you have a felony and cannot vote today.” He stood embarrassed and confused asking her to check again, but was turned away. Frost found that he was added to the list of excluded voters because he had been the victim of identity theft. A man living in Taiwan used his name and was convicted of a felony in 1995 (Robert O' Harrow, 2005). Once he complained to officials, his identity was finally regained but he still lost his chance to vote. Identity theft has been around long before the internet was born, but if you think of each piece of your identity as a part of a puzzle you start to realize how much easier the internet has made it for people wanting to find information about others. I remember in the 90s my parents being nervous about mail fraud and news bulletins about people stealing mail from others in an attempt to gather information. Back then that was scary, but it would take more than just one bill or letter to know what a person does day to day. Now all it takes is information getting into the wrong hands, a couple google searches, and you watch your life and identity go down the drain. Information that is kept in computers and data that is saved in an unlimited file in cyberspace, may never become a problem. Knowing it could and is potentially out there forever, is a problem.
The amount of privacy we have as individuals will continue to diminish with the use of technology. It is getting to the point that no matter what age you are you cannot avoid being found online somewhere, somehow. In many ways we have to blame ourselves for trusting our lives to a computer screen. “Americans may be able to make a constitutional argument for our privacy, but our real lives show that we do not take our right to privacy very seriously” (Dezzutti, 2013, para.4). There will never be a perfect balance where everyone is completely happy, but by finding new ways to protect ourselves and implementing blocks on our information it may give us a chance, at least with some things in life, to “keep it personal”.

References
Berman, J., & Bruening, P. (2001) Is privacy still possible in the twenty-first century. Social Research, 68(1), 306-318. Retrieved from ProQuest database.
Dezzutti, D. (2013) Privacy: the 21st Century Irony. Retrieved from http://denver.cbslocal.com
Greco, J. (2001). Privacy whose right is it anyhow? The Journal of Business Strategy, 22(1), 32-35. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/202719246?accountid=32521.
Henson, B., Reyns, B., & Fisher, B. (2011) Security in the 21st Century Examining the Link Between Online Social Network Activity, Privacy, and Interpersonal Victimization. Criminal Justice Review, 36(3), 253. Retrieved from ProQuest database.
Mur, C. (2005) Does the Internet Benefit Society? Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.
O’Harrow, R. (2005) No Place to Hide. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Sullivan, B. (2011). Social media polarizes our privacy concerns. Technology & Science. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com.
http://www.justice.gov/archive/ll/highlights.htm…...

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