“Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” –Ben Franklin
At 13, I had a “Hottie List” that I kept under my mattress. It was numbered 1 – 15. Number 1 was named Beau. “He is soooooooooooooooooo cute,” I wrote in the margin, surrounded by hearts. As you can imagine, I was mortified when my step-dad was changing my sheets and uncovered the sacred list. I still haven’t heard the end of it. We probably all know the feeling of having our privacy violated intentionally or otherwise. It’s traumatic.
Privacy is a civil liberty sought by humanity long before the founding of our country. It’s not an outdated idea that some white-wigged stiffs invented. It’s a right that’s ingrained in us. How did you react when your mom read your diary? “THAT’S MY PRIVATE PROPERTY! ARE YOU MY MOM OR ADOLPH HITLER?” Maybe you were less dramatic, a.k.a cooler than me, but you still felt mistreated on some level. Now, compare your innate distaste for privacy breaches with another basic instinct, self-preservation. What happens when forfeiting privacy could mean securing safety? Maybe when my step-dad found my hidden hottie list, he could have used that knowledge to protect me from Beau and a broken heart, but even back then, I would have chosen the freedom to fall in love and have my heart broken over the potential protection of a public hottie list.
Now that we’re on the same page about civil liberties in conflict, here are a couple acronyms for you to memorize.
ECPA – Electronic Communications Privacy Act
USA PATRIOT ACT – The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act
The ECPA, passed in 1986, is a bill intended to prevent the government from unauthorized access to private electronic communication, but was shaken up by the Patriot Act – which Bush started in 2001, following the September 11th attacks. The Patriot Act had an expiration date or a “sunset clause” – meaning it would expire in four years. It has been extended over the years, with much controversy. Last year, Obama reauthorized the act, with no restrictions. He disregarded the protest of even fellow Democrats, who were concerned with citizens losing their liberties. But, Obama signed off on it – a piece of legislation allowing phones to be wired and digital communication to be collected by the government with no warrant. The “lone wolf” section says that the government can spy on us, even if we have no terrorist links.
If a cop wants to read your mail, he needs a warrant – according to the Fourth Amendment. If he wants to read your email from six month ago or more, he’s free scroll and click away. It’s a clear discrepancy. It’s a veto of personal privacy. It’s an unconstitutional control.
An aide to the Judiciary Committee told Fox News that discussion of revising the ECPA is set to happen on Thursday. If the committee asked your opinion, what would you say? Do you want to feel safe or free?