Privacy In America Essay, Research Paper
After viewing Enemy of the State, one can not help but feel vulnerable to the technological advances of our government. However, most Americans find it difficult to believe that they are being watched by agents of the United States government. When Americans do accept that their privacy is being invaded, they assume that only the United States government, or rich and powerful companies are responsible, yet with today?s technology your next door neighbor could be listening. Americans believe that the right to privacy is a natural God given right, and that every American has the right to be left alone. Unfortunately, there are some individuals, usually labeled as terrorists, who would threaten the stability, and safety of America. Because of these select few the privacy of many must be compromised, and due to this compromise there is now controversy. Americans want to feel safe within their borders, free from foreign violence and terrorists attacks. We want our government to provide protection and security, however, with this protection we must be willing to surrender a certain amount of our privacy. The surrendering of our privacy brings about a debate, how much information does our government need.
Americans have acknowledged and accepted that terrorism is a growing concern in our country, and that the United States government must utilize every possible option when battling this newest and deadliest foe. Terrorism poses a serious threat, requiring a serious government response. From 1990-1997 there have been 25 incidents of terrorism on U.S. soil, with two incidents occurring in 1997 (Center 1). ?Technology, America?s ally in the cold war has become the nation?s greatest national security vulnerability. Weapons of mass destruction may soon fall into the hands of terrorists, if they have not already? (Thomas 78).
The National Security Agency (NSA sometimes known as No Such Agency), claims it is rescuing America by battling terrorist, inside the country. Recently the NSA, cousin in the spy business with the CIA, has now joined forces with the FBI, in a new alliance that the American people could view as unfavorable. This new merger will help the FBI track terrorist and international criminals in the United States. Previously, the NSA concentrated on crime and terrorism outside of the United States. With this much power and control, there is huge concern about the risk of power abuse (Thomas 78). The concern that the American people feel about being monitored by the United States government should be equally matched by the fear of being monitored by the ?next-door-neighbor.?
The technology to pry into a persons private affairs has become increasingly easier to own over the last decade. Scanners that are widely available to the general public at electronic stores can easily pick-up cordless telephone[conversations]. Approximately 62 percent of the households in the United States have at least one cordless phone. More than 40 percent have two cordless telephones and 2 percent have more than 2 cordless telephones. More than 60 million cordless telephones are in use. The first generation of cordless telephones use analog signals transmitted over FM radio waves in the 46 to 49 megahertz band and are easily picked up by a inexpensive radio scanners operated within a half a mile of the cordless telephone (Bast 407).
Scanners are the simplest and most basic form of electronic monitoring, and are used by many individuals and private companies. More advanced procedures and technology is use by NSA. The NSA encompasses a plethora of spying tools; spy satellites, and global listening stations to pick up broad casting transmissions and massive computers to sort and decipher them (Thomas 78). These are considered the older tools of the trade. Today?s new technology allows new ways to watch and monitor individuals.
Some 30 millions Americans will be subject to some form of electronic surveillance in 1999. ?A recent poll by Louis Hams found more than 89 percent of Americans harbor concerns about invasions of privacy. What is more, surveys by the American Management Association reveal that 35 percent of companies monitor their employees by reviewing computer files of e-mail, video tapping them on the job, or listening to their phone calls? (Cook 1-2).
The monitoring of employee?s performances, within an organization, is an extensive and growing business. It is estimated that over 26 million workers are electronically monitored. Between 1990 and 1992 more than 70,000 U.S. companies spent more than $500 million on monitoring software, and this figure exceeded $1 billion by 1996 (Alder 729). Although electronic monitoring has helped salvage and recover millions of dollars in lost goods and services, it is degrading to the individuals being monitored. ?Critics who approach the issue?counter that monitoring is dehumanizing, invades worker privacy, increases stress and worsens health, and decreases work-life quality? (Alder 730).
Monitoring programs, other than employee monitoring have gained in popularity in recent years. The strain on the American criminal justice system, especially on its corrections subsystems, to process and control the millions of offenders has led policy makers and politicians to seek out new alternatives to incarceration. Computer assisted monitoring of offenders (CAMO) is a new cost effective way to control and monitor criminals. CAMO devices employ elementary computer based technologies that report only three pieces of information: identification, location, and time. This new monitoring program is the governments way to protect the public, save money, reduce institutional crowding, and assist in offender treatment and rehabilitation (Archambeault 257-8). However, electronic monitoring has been shown not to deter crime with DUI offenders. Once again it is the individual who suffers. By being forced to wear electronic arm cuffs degrades and humiliates the victim in front of their family and the community.
The ideal of privacy is abstract and difficult it is to explain, yet still it is considered one of our most basic rights. The word privacy does not appear in the United States Constitution; however, Americans still believe that their right to privacy is legally protected fundamental to their lives, and their country?s democratic system.
When the founding fathers of this nation set out to ensure every person their God given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they never comprehended the issues that would face America. Advances in technology now allow surveillance cameras in the work place, surveillance satellites miles above earth, and instant information on the Internet. Nevertheless, these technological advances have brought about debatable, controversial and ethical issues. The first and foremost of these being the individuals right of privacy versus the governments right to know. How long will Americans enjoy the prosperity and individualism of the past now that the electronic technology to monitor a person can be purchased at Radio Shack?
One subject that will always surface when the issue of electronic monitoring is being discussed is the reaction and rights of those being monitored. When the United States government monitors its citizens, it is to preserve the safety and integrity of the country. This form of monitoring is essential to the security of our nation. However, it is this type of monitoring that is most scrutinized by Americans. Controversy appears when the government over steps its boundaries and invades the privacy of an individual with no legitimate reason. When this type of an error occurs, justice is not achieved the way it was intended, and can make a person feel as thought their personal life has been violated and infringed upon.
The last form of monitoring, and one of the most controversial is the monitoring of the work place. Electronic monitoring is a sure way of catching employee theft and waste, however, there are repercussions to this type of monitoring. Much like the arm cuffs of the DUI offenders, monitored employees feel violated and disgraced. Advocate of electronically monitoring employees maintain that it is to train new employees, and to help ensure the quality of work and customer service. The issue of how the employee feels by having their every move monitored is never a cause for concern to the employer.
The issue of privacy in America, and whether the United States government treats the citizens of its nations fairly when invading that privacy, has and always will be a topic of concern. There has never been a single law to protect all rights of privacy. However, Acts and Amendments to the U.S. Constitution help protect an individuals freedom against unwanted intrusions. With the combination of education and a strong democracy, we as Americans should have the knowledge and power to control our own privacy, and flow of personal information.