FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Bad Month for Privacy Rights

Justice Louis Brandeis once called the right to privacy “the right most valued by civilized men.”  Sadly, it has become increasingly clear that, despite pronunciations about “change” and “transparency,” the Obama administration is continuing down the path so dangerously started by former President George W. Bush.

First, the Supreme Court decided that it is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment if police collect DNA from people who have merely been arrested, not convicted, of a crime. Although the Court specified that this practice, already occurring in more than half of the states, should only be done to those who are arrested for “serious” crimes, no definition of what constitutes a serious crime was provided. I wonder whether we should begin preparing ourselves simply to open our mouths whenever a police officer approaches. Whether you are rightly or wrongly arrested, your DNA from that cheek swab will go into the database and, as far as we know, remain there in perpetuity.

While defenders maintain that the practice will help exonerate innocent persons, the risks are huge. Ultimately, the power goes to police, a scary kind of power in the hands of those who do not always use it fairly. In January, President Obama signed into law the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act, which creates grants to help states pay for the expanded DNA databases, and thus we can expect that more will indeed do so. Once again, we have put our faith in a technology at the expense of civil liberties.  Further, DNA evidence is only as good as the people collecting, maintaining and analyzing it.

Then, the Guardian broke the story that the FBI has been granted the power to obtain from Verizon information from all calls made within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries from April 25 and July 19 of this year. Supposedly a tool to keep us safe from terrorism, the authorization for this type of spying on citizens who have done absolutely nothing was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court through the USA Patriot Act’s “business records” provision.  While actual conversations are not covered, details including the phone numbers, location, duration, time and other identifiers about the callers are included in the order. Verizon has close to 100 million customers. We also have no way of knowing whether the NSA or FBI has sought similar orders of other phone companies, as all are prohibited from disclosing.

Just days later, the Guardian revealed that the NSA has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants. Under a program called PRISM, the NSA collects our search histories, the content of our emails, file transfers, live chats and more.

These types of blanket surveillance are not only an invasion of privacy but also ineffective to do what the government claims. Someone has to analyze the tremendous amount of data collected from these records, the vast majority of which will be completely innocuous. Not a smart use of resources, I would argue.

Clearly, poet John Perry Barlow had it right: “Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.”  Those interested in a more peaceful and just world must become even more vocal advocates for privacy, what Justice William O. Douglas called “the beginning of all freedom.”

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

More articles by:

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail