Violating Our Privacy for Our Protection

The specter of terrorism has changed our lifestyles and threatens the civil liberties that we hold dear. Governments admit that they could not fight terrorists in a conventional manner and therefore, fighting back would require unconventional means. An article in Newsweek explained it articulately that a president will almost always choose to violate individual rights over the risk of losing a war (Thomas & Klaidman, 2006). That article further illustrated that when the United States experienced national crises, its presidents exercised powers that may be reminiscent of communist authoritarian states.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus; World War I, Woodrow Wilson allowed officials to prosecute anyone criticizing the government; World War II is noted for the FBI wiretapping and unlawful detention of Japanese-Americans. Critics of the Bush administration has already insinuated that our e-mail accounts may not be safe with the National Security Agency (NSA) “googling” us through its data-mining supercomputers.

Invading our privacy without warrants- supposedly to protect us from the terrorists in our midst- is never justifiable. If you want to protect us, do so by not violating us. The very foundation of democratic nations has been the civil liberties that its citizens enjoy. Primary among these is the assurance to the citizens of their right to be secure in their homes and persons. Private e-mail accounts among other personal spaces should be outside the sphere of government, unless a warrant is issued, then it becomes a reasonable search allowed by law.

The Fourth amendment is categorical on this, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, house, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized (Lauren S. Bahr, Johnston, & Bloomfield, 2002) This does not follow if you are using government or employer’s computers and networks on government and/or business hours and has been forewarned about prohibitions of private emailing within the premises.

As Mark Rasch wrote you have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the contents of e-mail you send and receive at work, using a work computer, over a company supplied network, where the company has a “business use only” policy, and an employee monitoring policy that states that any communications may be monitored? Think about it. Indeed, the policy will go further and says “users have no expectation of privacy (Rasch, 2007). Internet privacy is recognized as a protected interest under state common law.

In the context of e-mail and online privacy there are four torts of potential importance: (1) violating a person’s isolation; (2) disclosure of upsetting private facts; (3) making disclosures that characterize or portray a person in a false light; and (4) using as person’s name or likeness without permission (Bick, 2000). Whatever the end or purpose of warrantless “googling”, government should tread lightly considering the fundamental laws. Online programs can search email accounts for pornographic materials and in the process scans every person’s account.

This does not violate anything considering that the programs are not people. People who look at other people’s accounts for homeland protection purposes could compromise a person as indicated in the previous paragraph. If Rihanna’s police photo showing her battered face is splashed all over town without her consent, who can prevent other people or “law enforcers” looking over the emails from using your credit card numbers, private photos, and even identity for their nefarious ends.

If a terrorist is caught at the expense of compromising thousands of non-terrorists, I would rather prefer the long, tedious process of getting a warrant.

Works Cited

Bick, J. (2000). 101Things You Need to Know About Internet Law. New York City: Three Rivers Press. Lauren S. Bahr, E. D. , Johnston, B. , & Bloomfield, L. A. (2002). Collier’s Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier. Rasch, M. (2007, November 2). E-mail Privacy to Disappear. Retrieved February 26, 2009, from Symantec: www. symantec. com Thomas, E. , & Klaidman, D. (2006, January 9). Full Speed Ahead. Newsweek , p. 14.