Skip to comments.Pulling plug on privacy; How technology helped make the 4th Amendment obsolete
Posted on 06/22/2011 7:12:50 AM PDT by Daffynition
We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of a dear friend, the Fourth Amendment. Born on the freedom-loving soil of early America, the Fourth Amendment will be remembered as the bulwark of the liberty we once called privacy. For ye, we mourn.
As you can see, were working on a eulogy for the Fourth Amendment, the part of the Constitution guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures in effect, a privacy provision.
When did the Fourth Amendment die, you ask?
Recently, but its been sick for a while.
So why havent you heard about it?
Because youre the murderer. We all are. Our weapon of choice? Most recently, the smartphone, which, with our collective blessing, allows law enforcement to monitor our real-time geographic location. Although a bill recently proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would require police to obtain a warrant before turning our cellphones into tracking devices, such legislation may come too late to save the Fourth Amendment from this fatal blow.
It started with the supermarket loyalty programs. They seemed innocuous enough you just scribble down your name, number and address in exchange for a plastic card and a discount on Oreos. The problem, at least constitutionally speaking, is that the Fourth Amendment protects only what we reasonably expect to keep private. One facet of this rule, known as the third party doctrine, is that we dont have reasonable expectations of privacy in things weve already revealed to other people or the public.
You would, for example, have a reasonable expectation of privacy for a photograph on your nightstand meaning the police would need probable cause and a warrant before taking a peek. But you lose that expectation of privacy when you tack the souvenir photo from Foamhenge on the office bulletin board to make co-workers envious.
Letting stores track our purchases may not appear to be permitting an intensely personal revelation but, as the saying goes, you are what you eat, and we inevitably reveal more than we thought. Have diapers in your cart? You probably have a baby. Tofu? Probably a vegetarian. A case of Muscatel a week? An alcoholic (with poor taste, at that). The cards also track the where and when of our shopping expeditions. Making a late-night run to a convenience store near your ex-girlfriends house? Buying posters and markers the day before a political rally? If you swiped your card, all that information is now public.
If you think police have turned a blind eye to this wealth of information, guess again. Without the protections of the Fourth Amendment, the police are free to mine the commercial databases storing our personal information without any suspicion whatsoever. Consider the case of Philip Scott Lyons in 2004: Police arrested the firefighter for arson after discovering he purchased a fire starter with his Safeway Club Card. The charges werent dropped until someone else confessed; not everyone will be so lucky.
These cards were just the beginning. Fast Track passes quickly followed with their lure of a shorter commute for a little privacy. Then came eBay and Amazon, which save us from retyping our billing and shipping information, if only we create an account. Before long, convenience became paramount, and electronic tracking became the norm. Nowadays, Google not only collects data on what websites we visit but uses its satellites to take pictures of our homes. GPS manufacturer TomTom has collected and disclosed to law enforcement data on where people are speeding, so police could catch them in the act. Indeed, if Mexicos highly anticipated experiment with iris scanners goes well, we may soon be going through airport security, making ATM withdrawals and buying groceries, quite literally, with the blink of an eye.
With so little left private, the Fourth Amendment is all but obsolete. Where police officers once needed a warrant to search your bookshelf for Atlas Shrugged, they can now simply ask Amazon.com if you bought it. Where police needed probable cause before seizing your day planner, they can now piece together your whereabouts from your purchases, cellphone data and cars GPS. Someday soon well realize that weve lost everything we once cherished as private. And as we grieve the loss of the Fourth Amendment, well be forced to look deep in our heartsand at the little pieces of plastic dangling from our keychains and ask ourselves if it was all worth it. R.I.P.
Alex Kozinski is the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Stephanie Grace is his law clerk.
Sad but mostly true. Shame that the authors didn’t criticize their judicial brethren who, technology notwithstanding, have chipped away at the 4th Amendment with nonsensical rulings that invoke some nonexistent ‘overriding public safety’ standard.
Privacy is well and alive for those criminals wishing to cross the border into our country in peace, and for those wishing to kill their unborn child.
Not everyone has a smart phone, not everyone shops at a super market that has loyalty programs, not everyone uses GPS in their cars, and not everyone lives in a part of the country that has toll roads or SmartPass.
But everyone has to deal with the IRS....if the IRS knowing how much you make and where you make it, and then takes half of that money, that is the ultimate invasion of privacy and liberty as far as I’m concerned. The author of this piece should be concerned about THAT. My local super market doesn’t have the authority to seize my property and throw me in jail, but numerous government agencies do have that power.
Yes, technology has major impact on the 4th, but the WOD has already neutered it.
I’ve recently become quite concerned about how my medical records seem to be an open book.
Winning The Future?
So what's *your* BMI?..Obama wants to know.
Getting felt up at the airport by perfect strangers or being looked at naked by perfect strangers in order to get on a plane kinda put the last shovel of dirt on it for me and I don’t fly (but its only a matter of time before this will be required to get into government buildings, then skyscrapers, then the mall, then...)
Democratic re-election platform
How perfectly fitting!----
Speaks for itself...
I know this is supposed to be the smartest administration ever, but I'm sorry; if I were running a campaign with a fairly unpopular incumbent, the last thing I'd do is have a reelection slogan whose initials were WTF.
Plenty of alleged “conservatives” were more than willing to throw away any and all protections when G.W.Bush was president and we were fighting the “War On Terror”. Plenty of Drug Warriors, too. Both parties have said, right here on FR words to the effect of “if you aren’t doing anything wrong you don’t have anything to be worried about”.
Sorry, I want the government to have no more power, ever, under the best of men who could ever inhabit the earth, than I want it to have when in complete control of the most evil and despotic; anything else is jack boot licking as far as I am concerned.
I prefer carhenge. Authentic American Folk Art.
(Plus you get a good look at some older steering linkage and frame designs)
(All the data can be logged for hours at a time on the average laptop).
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