The right to privacy means controlling your own personal information and the ability to allow or deny access to others. As Americans, we feel it's a right not a privilege to have privacy. IT technology and the events of September 11, 2001 are diminishing that right, whether its workplace privacy or personal privacy. From sending email, applying for a job, or even using the telephone, Americans right to privacy is in danger. Personal and professional information is being stored, link, transferred, shared, and even sold without your permission or knowledge. IT technology has benefited mankind tremendously in so many areas, but its also comes with a price. Advancements in technology make all individuals vulnerable to unwanted probing and monitoring. Privacy Laws
Privacy is a fundamental right. According to Supreme Court Justice D. Brandeis (Olmstead v. U.S. 277 U.S. 438 1928): The makers of our Constitution...sought to protect
Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions, and their sensations. They conferred as against the
Government, the right to be let alone; the most
comprehensive of the rights of man and the right most
valued by civilized men. The principle underlying the
Fourth and Fifth Amendments is protection against
invasions of the sanctities of a man's home and privacies of life.
Computers don't invade our right to privacy; people do. Congress decided that certain laws needed to be in place to protect citizens' private information. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures, but our forefathers never imagined a world where our private information would be stored in huge computer databases. The government passed numerous laws to clarify the intent of the Fourth Amendment in order to address technology privacy concerns. The passing of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (1986) was to expand the scope of existing federal laws to include protection for electronic communications. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act states it's a criminal offense to intercept and reveal private conversations without a court order. Email is also protected under the Act, but courts have ruled email at the workplace belongs to the employer, not the employee. In the work environment, privacy isn't guaranteed. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1986) states that whoever knowingly gains access without authorization to someone else's computer can be prosecuted under the law. The Video Privacy Act (1988) prohibits video stores from divulging or selling their records without customers consent or court order. The Computer Matching and Privacy Act (1988) stops federal agencies from engaging in electronic witch-hunts. All of these acts were passed to protect certain privacy issues, but everything changed after September 11, 2001. The USA PATRIOT ACT
Six weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act(2001). USA PATRIOT is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The USA PATRIOT Act introduced extensive changes to U.S. law, including amendments, but not limited to, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and Computer Matching and Privacy Act. The act gives the Office of Homeland Security and the FBI unprecedented access to information that was previously kept private. The implications for online privacy are substantial. Federal agencies have the power to access email, library and medical records, personal financial information and student information without any suspicion of wrongdoing, simply by asserting the information acquired is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation. They can also legally wiretap phones, invade homes, and offices...
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H.R. 3162, 107th Cong., 1st Sess. (2001)(enacted)
Lithwick, D., & Turner, J
scared of the PATRIOT Act?, Slate. Retrieved June 26, 2004
Locy, T. (2004, February). Special report: PATRIOT Act blurred
in the public mind
Pike, G. (2004, June). A SAFEr USA PATRIOT Act? Information
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