Dearth of Privacy

Posted by Keith McMillan

January 23, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Over at Gizmodo, there’s this article on searching people who are pulled over for traffic violations:

In a recent academic paper, South Texas Assistant Professor Adam Gershowitz explains that because many traffic violations are arrestable offenses, just as a cop could search your pockets for drugs, said cop can also search your pockets for a smartphone and go through all its contents.

And so, privacy takes another step backwards in the face of technology.

The founding fathers never created a right to privacy. There’s the whole “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” bit, but to our everlasting chagrin, there is no guarantee of privacy in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

It’s not fair to beat the founding fathers up too badly about this, I suppose. They lived in a world where the technological ability to do the things we can do today were never imagined. Why, even a few years ago, the very idea that the security organs of governments could monitor every email, every packet of information on the Internet, and every phone call were far-fetched. But this is the world we live in today.

And a depressing thought is that the people in the United States seem increasingly to be content to sacrifice their rights for an incremental increase in security. Even the ones that are in the Bill of Rights. Where’s the outcry when we use National Security Letters to secure information without a search warrant, and without judicial review?

Security, however, is an illusion: all you’ve done is to give up your rights without a fight. Benjamin Franklin is credited with the quote “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”, and although while I agree with the sentiment (although to be fair, there is some controversy surrounding the matter), we can’t just go quietly along with every incursion into the should-be right of privacy, or soon there will be none left.

So make sure to lock your cell phone. Because your glovebox can’t be searched if it’s locked, then your phone can’t be searched if it’s locked, right? And while our rights trickle away, taken by those who were sworn to protect them, I’ll go back to ranting in the void.


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