There’s No Denying That Almost
In a world covered by cameras and satellites, one can feel that they can never truly escape the constant surveillance. The question that prompted my research was “how often is our technological privacy breached by government monitoring and how much does our government abuse its right to this surveillance?” Although the public is somewhat aware of government monitoring, we are still kept in the dark regarding the extent of this surveillance and other vital information that should be disclosed. This new age of technology has made it more accessible than ever for our government to intrude on our lives. However, there is a fine line between using this information for national security and using it to keep tabs on its innocent citizens.
I began my journey by searching for an answer to the first half of my question, how often is our technological privacy breached by the U.S. government? I clicked on the second hit under Wikipedia, which was an article by the L.A. Times editorial board titled “The U.S. government is still spying on its citizens. Here are some fixes for that.” This source provided tons of information regarding Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows our government to tap into phone conversations of immigrants living in America. However, “even though aren’t the targets of of Section 702’s elaborate electronic dragnet, emails, phone calls and Internet chats can be caught up in it incidentally.” This program is derived from George W. Bush’s shady monitoring program that was introduced after 10/9/11.
This surveillance didn’t require a warrant and stayed unknown to the public until it was uncovered by journalists four years later. But unlike George W. Bush’s program, Section 702 “is overseen fairly rigorously by a federal court”. Some Americans still argue that the program is a breach of privacy, but our government’s retort is that there is no evidence that proves that they have taken advantage of this program. This is an unfair response, because no data has been released at all of “the number of Americans whose conversations have been captured…, making it difficult to whether is being .” These were not the answers I was hoping for for my questions, and it has only made me think of our authority as a big bully, taunting us by holding the information right above our heads. I can only assume the worst of this surveillance and the number of people it has affected. If the government claims they monitor its residents for their own safety, why would our leaders be so opposed to telling us more about it unless they have something to hide?
When our Founding Fathers drafted our Constitution, they made unregulated government searches illegal. According to the Fourth Amendment, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause….” So my next question is how can it be legal for our government to monitor its citizens through technology if there isn’t a warrant issued or probable cause determined? The answer is that it isn’t, but it’s too easy for them to get away with it. I looked on ASU’s library database and found a book written by Christopher Slobogin, a chair at Vanderbilt University’s law school, called Privacy at Risk: The New Government Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment. In this he states that “many types of physical and transaction surveillance are not formally recognized as searches that implicate the 2 Fourth Amendment” and that “as a result, much of this surveillance, although a search is in effect, is not seriously regulated by law.”
Although our authority clearly knows the meaning behind the Fourth Amendment, they are just playing dumb by choosing not to apply it to the modern changes to and the new meaning of “searches and seizures”. On a website called the Weekly Standard, an article called “How the Fourth Amendment Can Keep Up With Modern Surveillance” by Matthew Feeney paraphrases the book The Fourth Amendment in the Age of Surveillance by David Gray, a professor at University of Maryland. In it Gray mentions the court case Katz v. United States (1967), where it was determined that “government agents have conducted a ‘search’ if they have violated an individual’s subjective expectation of privacy.” However the case didn’t foresee the advanced means of surveillance that would be introduced in the coming decades. Police officers can legally snoop through your backyard using drones. Gray even argues that it would be perfectly legal for police to attach GPS trackers onto every car in America. Thanks to what was decided after the Katz case, “what a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection.” These statements by Gray lead me to think about what America’s future could possibly look like if still regulated by these current surveillance laws, so I decided to look into the types of technological control that the government of China uses over its people.
Living in a first world country, technology is a staple of my everyday routine. From my cell phone to my computer and TV, to traffic and store surveillance cameras and satellites, I am constantly on my government’s grid. However, compared to China, my experience with governmental-technology control is much more relaxed. The first source that I looked at was a product of The Atlantic writers Anna Mitchell and Larry Diamond called “China’s Surveillance
State Should Scare Everyone”, which had a promising title. In it they describe an Orwellian society where China has implemented facial recognition software into traffic cameras that leaders believe will decrease crime rates amongst the population. Mitchell and Diamond also report something called a “citizen score” that will become mandatory by 2020 and is used to encourage good behavior by rating one’s obedience to their government. Things that could affect this score include “making political posts online without a permit or the government officials’ narrative on current events.” Clearly China’s communist tendencies haven’t discluded its peoples’ access and contributions to the internet. China has long dreamed of the creation of a system called the “Golden Shield”, which is a database that contains records on every resident in the country, but the closest they have come to this is their Great Firewall, which blocks websites such as Google and Facebook and censors “dangerous” information such as democracy. However they are starting to gather “comprehensive, constantly updated, and granular records on each citizen’s political persuasions, comments, and associations, and even consumer habits.” To most Americans this sounds terrifying, but to Chinese civilians they are proud of the idea that their loyalty to their country will be on full display for their superiors and peers to see. Most of them are brainwashed into thinking that the Great Firewall and citizen scores are only put into effect by their government to make China a safer and more regimented country. After all, as George Orwell once said, “ignorance is strength.”
In conclusion, I am horrified for the future of our world. Our society today is the precursor to a totalitarian, technology ridden civilization where humans are brainwashed through their technology. The 2000’s have introduced the use of handheld devices and the cameras that
they have on them, as well as the easily-accessed data that they contain. We are closer than ever to being completely controlled by our government. We need to acknowledge this as a whole in order to protect and reclaim our right to privacy from the world. Before it’s too late, hopefully we are able to realize the control the government has over us through our devices.