can't just go off somewhere by yourself without everyone else knowing where you are? Do
you ever simply need to be away from the prying eyes of the world? In times past, some might
have said you were paranoid; but in today's world lack of privacy is the status quo.
Do you own a cell phone? Over the last year, according to Talking Points Memo, law
enforcement agencies have obtained eight million GPS readings on the location of Sprint
wireless customers. Thousands of customers (you?) were targeted by police and federal
agencies which enabled them to determine the location of that cell phone at any time.
Interested in a new car? Many new models come equipped with a calling feature which
can tell if you have been in an accident, help you navigate, find you a restaurant, open your
car door if you lost the key, and even start your car remotely. This feature is used by some
car rental companies to monitor how fast you drive and where you go.
Do you love your children enough to be concerned for their safety? Parents in some
areas have available to them the technology and the legal right to have a chip inserted under
the skin of their child's arm. This would enable the authorities to track the child in case of
a kidnapping. Parents can also track their children on their home computers by way of the
child's cell phone. No more cutting class for little Billy or Susy; but as we already know,
children have no privacy rights.
I have wondered for a long time about cell phones. After watching NCIS and other TV
shows and movies, by now everyone should know cell phones can be tracked. One expert
said the only way to prevent such tracking is to remove your cell phone's battery when not
using it. Navigation systems and emergency calling services should also be a red flag to those
concerned about privacy. By buying this feature (and I suspect even if you didn't subscribe)
you open yourself up to being tracked and watched by numerous government agencies and
under circumstances you could never imagine; police are definitely not shy about using these
electronic leashes to find and follow you.
But here's the big question. Is your privacy important to you? Are you concerned about
not having the privacy to travel where you wish without everyone knowing what you are doing?
Do you consider this a welcome evolution in security and safety or a malevolent erosion of
our ability to avoid prying eyes compliments of our government? If you aren't doing anything
wrong, why worry, right? If you are innocent, the government and law enforcement agencies
are no threat to you, correct? No, you are tragically wrong!
If you are shocked by the fact that innocent Americans liberty is at risk, let me ask you
this: What kind of safeguards exist to protect you from government or law enforcement
surveillance? Actually, you have almost NO protection. Take a moment to let that sink in.
With the passage of the Patriot Act, which was just reauthorized at the beginning of December,
your government has virtual carte blanche to track you because our government's definition
of "terrorism" is so broad that none of us is above suspicion of terrorism. Check it out.
Telecom companies cooperated with the government's desire to read your email, listen to
your cell phone, monitor your whereabouts; and they don't even need a court order. When
the public watchdogs found out about this travesty of privacy, our Congress came back and
granted the companies immunity from any liability if at some later date they are sued for
opening up their customer's lives to government scrutiny. The sad fact is, every level of
government has at one time or another spied on anti-war groups, environmental activists,
anti-establishment political organizations, and anyone else they consider security risks or
politically opposed to those currently in power. That was BEFORE the Patriot Act was passed
years ago! Things are much worse since the passage of the Patriot Act. Reports have surfaced
about spying on constitutionally protected activities by numerous government and law
enforcement agencies. What was illegal is now legal, thanks to the Patriot Act.
There are many people I know who blow off concerns about privacy. They believe we lost
the last vestiges of privacy a long time ago and the genie can't be put back in the bottle. You
have no privacy, they say. Get over it. There is nothing you can do about it. This attitude is
usually expressed right up until someone mentions a national ID card; since we have no
privacy anyway, why worry about a national data system which would do the final slam dunk
on tracking where you go, what you buy, when you fly, what you say, what you think, or
anything else they might want to know. Everything! No privacy ever again, finished!
So I ask you, when you look at that cool iPhone or Droid phone, when you think about
buying the car with the On-Star system in it, or when you carry your BlackBerry; are you
troubled at what you are surrendering? Will you take the battery out of your cell phone
when you aren't using it? And how about that cool car with the onboard GPS navigation
system or electronic monitor?
Some whine it's too late. The barn door is gone and the horses are in the next county.
How could we ever hope to put things right? The technology is so ubiquitous, so convenient,
and accepted that existing without it might be hard. Granted, this is true. So now more than
ever, we need safeguards to protect us from abuse by the government, law enforcement, and
rich and powerful interests. Today, very few safeguards exist. Legislation to protect you
doesn't exist in most states; and what does exist is outdated and inadequate given the rapid
advance of technology and the pathetic fear that anyone among us could be a terrorist.
If you're not convinced what I'm saying is true, ask your cell phone company about their
policy concerning cooperating with government or law enforcement. Ask GM or the other
auto companies if they will track you when asked by the government. Ask a lawyer if your
travel records can be subpoenaed in a divorce case to see where you were and when you were
there (they can already subpoena records of electronic toll devices used on bridges and toll
roads). Ask yourself if there is potential for all of this tracking to be abused. But you already
know the answer to that question.
Take a moment to mourn the death of the Forth Amendment...silence...(Note: With the
death of the Fourth Amendment, free speech, the freedom of association, and the freedom of
thought ended in America...and the prisons began to fill. Welcome to the new era of "freedom"
as defined by your friend and willing protector, Big Brother. Welcome to twenty-first century
America.) What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to