Has the government spied on you? Possibly. Has your right to privacy ever been violated? Most likely. Is government surveillance something you should worry about? If you are not a terrorist, haven’t committed a crime, and haven’t been hauled away in a big black van yet, probably not.
The truth is your right to privacy is whatever the government wants it to be. If you think you have privacy rights that are protected because you live in America, you either don’t read the news or have spent most of your life somewhere else.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights won’t save you.
The Constitution will not protect your email from the NSA. The Bill of Rights does not erase the history of your visits to that website you know you shouldn’t frequent. It doesn’t protect what you do with your cell phone, either. None of these things even existed when these documents were written.
If the courts and the government want to protect your electronic activities they will, or at least they will tell you they will. That decision depends too much on who is pulling the strings in Washington. Better to err on the side of caution and assume all your electronic communications are being scrutinized. This is about individual responsibility, not privacy.
Americans like to fall back on our history of fundamental freedoms and apply what the Founding Fathers believed to whatever we feel we are being denied. We need to grow up.
We are boastful about our rights, but much of what we covet only exists when validated by a court decision. There was no such thing as gay rights when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written. There was no such thing as illegal immigrant rights, either. We have civil rights because the time was right. These rights are the products of lobbyists and special interests made real by the courts and our federal legislature.
Don’t be naïve. There is no right to privacy.
Any website owner knows that the government is snooping (see: Civil Candor Post Attracts Homeland Security’s Attention). Why was anyone surprised that Eric Holder went after reporters’ phone logs? If you make your living writing about what the government does, shouldn’t you suspect that it has its fingers poking around in what you say and do?
Every click you make on the internet, every phone number you dial, and every email you send is as good as public. Get used to it. The NSA’s quest for phone records and emails, government requests for data from Google, and Homeland Security surveillance are not shots over the bow threatening our privacy rights. They are just more examples of how our government does business.
If you are going to worry about privacy, worry about this.
Obamacare is going to juggle your health records and the IRS may not be able to keep your private information secure (see: Government Won’t Guard Your Private Identity). Instead of lying awake at night worrying that some shady government agency knows you called Aunt Millie in Topeka, worry about having your identity stolen from the government. The privacy right we need to protect is not the right to be secure in communications we should have the good sense to be careful about. We need to make sure our government protects the information it already has its hands on.