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According to the dictionary (Merriam-Webster) privacy is: a) the quality or state of being apart from company or observation; b) freedom from unauthorized intrusion (“one’s right to privacy”); and c) secrecy or a private matter.
Our Constitution is bullish on privacy and the right to be free of unwarranted searches and seizures, yet every day now we’re hearing about more and more data gathering about us by our government.
Logistically, one has to wonder how NSA officials can possibly manage to wade through all of our phone records, our internet use and our emails without being buried in a digital deluge.
Legally, the government is hanging its hat on a FISA Court ruling relating to monitoring cellphones, internet and emails of citizens and others, which it refuses to make public. All FISA Court rulings are secret. No transparency there.
How disappointing that it should come to this – rather than strengthening our resolve to protect our constitutionally ensured rights, our fear of terrorism (or a government that uses our fear of terrorism as a wedge between us and our rights) has led us to turn the other cheek and mutter, “Well if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide.”
It’s not about whether you’re doing something wrong or right – the issue here is that we have a right and an expectation that some things are private. Whether planning a birthday party for a loved one, a bank robbery or an illicit assignation or a trip to the beach – there is a reasonable expectation that those conversations whether they take place by phone (landline), cellphone, email or an internet chat room are private.
Now that we know that NSA programs are tracking our digital interactions, do we need to wonder when unmanned drones will be flying over our homes, watching what we do in our backyards and living rooms? Will that be okay, too, as long as you’re not doing anything wrong and don’t have anything to hide?
The apathy with which the government spying revelations have been greeted is frightening. How and why is it OK to lose our freedom from unauthorized intrusion? It would not be OK for any of us to spy similarly on our neighbors, elected officials, former partners, current partners, spouses, children, etc. Why is it okay for the government to peer so personally into our lives?