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Some things and activities are entitled and permitted to a person, other people, corporations, or the government should not interfere with. The person has the freedom of choice, to do or not do these things. These rights may involve legal or social matters of a person. Whenever the government or other authorities deny these rights there is a lot of concern because every individual should possess them. An example is a right to privacy categorized into physical privacy and informational privacy. Privacy allows a person to keep himself or his information out of access by unauthorized parties. At times this right is infringed during secret searches and when investigative tools are used by law enforcement agencies.
Right to informational privacy
An individual may prefer to have his or her information protected because of different reasons. Some people may prefer to keep their religion, financial status, political stands, and medical reports as a secret (Ides & May 57). This is because the revelation of such information may cause embarrassment and discrimination in society. Some professionals feel that if their health state is revealed to the public their reputation will be damaged. The financial information of an individual should always be protected to avoid theft. Organizations that carry out financial transactions example banks should always protect and preserve this information. As technology advance, the privacy right of an individual is threatened. Internet privacy should be enhanced so that personal data is not collected, used, and disclosed to undesired persons. Certain network systems collect and store all the emails of users and this violates their rights if the information is disclosed.
An individual is entitled to privacy of their medical conditions. Hospitals and other health centers should not reveal a patient’s health condition to the public without the knowledge of the patient. Treatment records reveal a lot of personal information example the disabilities and HIV status of a person (Nash 30). Some insurance companies may not cover a person with certain health conditions, and some employers may sack an employee or fail to employ a qualified person just because of his or her health status. The political stand of a person should also be kept personal especially where one’s life is at risk. A good voting system should not reveal the views of voters to avoid hatred and discrimination. Technology is developing fast and all the above information is collected and stored electronically therefore, privacy and revelation of information should be balanced to avoid violation of the individual right to privacy.
Importance of privacy
The right to privacy is vital because it is a component of the freedom of a person. Everybody is entitled to this freedom and should be allowed to control what is revealed to the public and what is preserved. For a healthy society, the privacy right of an individual should not be violated. When people realize they are being spied they do not engage in several activities like political associations. This is because they fear they might be falsely suspected and accused of threatening the security of the country. Every person should be free to join a political party and be allowed to discuss his or her stand without fear. Another effect of violation of privacy rights is that citizens conform and do not speak out about ideas that are important to the development of a nation. This hinders the flourishing of the community and results in a totalitarian state that hinders development from its citizens.
Today, there are a lot of records stored by phones companies, websites, Internet Service Providers, employers, and libraries (Marcovitz 82). The government collects information from these stores for the investigation to enhance public safety. They use personal information to investigate crime example the illegal drug trafficking, hacking and cracking of government-protected information, and fraud (Schermer 106). These records help the government to know the lifestyle, online activities, and interests of a person. In case a person is suspected to be a threat to public security, he or she is held for further investigation.
In America, this right is violated by law enforcement and intelligence agencies in their effort to protect the public. The government enacted the Patriot Act to fight terrorism and several investigative tools are used that infringe the right to privacy. On September 11th, 2001 the Islamic terrorist attacked America using four planes. The al-Qaida terrorists killed the passengers using knives before crushing two planes on the Twin Towers of the New York World trade center. The Pentagon in Washington was also crushed and another plane crashed in the Pennsylvania field. About 3000 people died including immigrants from several countries (Marcovitz 86). The nation feared that al-Qaida would attack again hence there was a need to protect the public. The Act was passed without amendments or discussion and it gave the law enforcement agencies more power to protect the Americans. An act is defined as terrorism if it threatens the life of human beings. It can either be domestic or international terrorism, if it happens within the American boundaries it is domestic but if it is outside it is international terrorism.
In an attempt to protect the public, the government revised the surveillance laws giving domestic law enforcement and International Intelligence agencies permission to spy on the Americans. The agencies were allowed to search communications done through telephones and e-mails. They also have permission to search the medical and financial records of an individual. This Act violates the right to privacy of an individual and also denied the judiciary system power to protect these rights from abuse. Several tools are used in surveillance. The pen register captures all electronic communications done through the internet and records all phone numbers dialed from the phone. The trap and trace devices capture all incoming phone numbers. They also collect electronic impulses used by the agencies to gather information about the communication (Schermer 108). This helps the agencies to trace the communications of a suspected terrorist thus protecting the public.
The internet connects different regions making the world a global village. In America some websites are monitored by the Internet Service Provider and any surfing and communication is accessed by the law enforcement agencies violating the right to privacy of an individual (Nash 34). Any person that is suspected by the government to be a threat is wiretapped for investigation. Important information of a suspect is collected from his or her medical and financial records. Other sources used are business, library, and educational records. This access is done without the consent of an individual and in some cases, the individual is a law-abiding citizen.
This Act has enhanced public protection from terrorism. Since 2001 there has been no major terrorist attack because of the surveillance done by law enforcement entities. A secret court gives the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance orders to investigate any suspected criminal either foreign or American citizen. It collects records and checks whether the suspect is communicating with any foreign group that may be a threat to the public. Domestic law enforcement agencies allow the police to listen to conversations or access the electronic data of a suspect. They also access the electronic data and transactions of a person whose connection is monitored by the ISPs. This ensures that the public is protected from attack.
Violation of the right
The government’s attempt to protect the public has a great impact on the informational privacy of people.Most law-abiding Americans feel that their rights are being violated. A balance should be established between what is disclosed and what is preserved from the law enforcement agencies. Electronic communication and online activities of Americans should be protected from surveillance. The ability of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect information from one phone to another and from one computer to another by use of wiretaps installed nationally should be revised. An individual’s payments done by use of a credit card or through the bank account should not be disclosed to a third party without the knowledge of the person. Therefore the Internet Service Providers should not be used to submit these transactions to the law enforcement agencies. The wiretaps cause many citizens to feel less free in America. This has to lead to hatred of Arab immigrants as citizens believe they are terrorists and it is because of their presence that the Patriot Act was enacted otherwise, their privacy would not be violated
Impact of surveillance
Since the enacting of the Patriot Act in 2001, the security of the nation has been improved with attempted terrorist attacks being stopped before they take place. Examples include; the 2002 arrest of an immigrant from Pakistan who had a dirty bomb and was communicating with other Islamic terrorists to attack the United States (Jones 226). The same year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested six men who had previously left the country to attend an Islamic conference in Pakistan. In 2003, a man who planned to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge was monitored and police stopped this before it took place. In 2006, the FBI realized of an attempt to bomb the train tunnels in New York 9 (Schermer 109). This was discovered through internet surveillance. This is a clear indication that serious attacks would have happened if the Act never allowed surveillance by law enforcement agencies.
Surveillance is a key factor in ensuring that the security of the public is not threatened both by domestic and international criminals. This makes many Americans accept the surveillance by police but, they fear that their personal information may be disclosed or misused. For example, patients may not reveal their sensitive information to a physician in fear that it may be used incorrectly. Some may give false information about their health conditions or not go to the hospital at all. Their worry is how their information may be used and to whom it may be disclosed. Surveillance also has some negative effects on the social life of Americans. It may hinder the determination of the Americans to work. The nation may become a totalitarian country without the freedom of people in society. People fear that disclosure of their personal information to the government is risky because it may be used to mistreat them in times of national instability (Ides & May). This is because no laws are stating how this information should be used and the duration it should be retained by the government. The information gathered by the intelligence groups may be incorrect. This has led to the detention of innocent citizens and some immigrants have been deported unjustly. This act of spying has affected information development in America. Most innocent citizens feel that their right to privacy in an electronic communication is violated.
In conclusion, privacy and security are two crucial rights that every individual requires in life. They are interdependent because without security the privacy of an individual will be violated through theft, cracking of stored information, and attacks. Similarly, if the personal information of an individual is not given, the government will not be able to protect the public from criminals. Also, it will not be able to carry out planning for its citizens. For the government to be able to offer some facilities like medical treatment, it needs to know some personal details of its people. Tax collection is important and the government must access the private data of a person, for example, the financial records. The individual right and public protection are inseparable; the government should collect information of an individual directly instead of spying and using the, collect the relevant information and use it for the intended purpose; it should also allow the person to correct his or her information if it is wrong (Ides & May 62). Therefore the government needs to develop methods that will help in information collection without infringing the privacy of the citizen. This will increase the confidence of the citizens and will not feel threatened. This way a free society will be developed and development enhanced because people do not feel threatened (Jeffreys 230). The liberties of all people both Americans and immigrants will not be violated.
Jeffreys, Jones R. The FBI: a history. New York: CRC press, 2007. 221- 230.
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Ides Allan and May, Christopher N. Constitutional law- individual rights. New York: Nova publishers, 2004. 56- 62.
Nash, Mike J. Public protection & criminal justice process. California: Sage plc, 2006. 29- 34.
Marcovitz, Harold P. Privacy Rights & the Patriot Act. Minnesota: ABDO publishers, 2008. 82- 90.
Schermer, Bart W. Software Agents, Surveillance, &the Right to privacy: A Legislative. New York: CRC press. 2007. 105-109.