The fourth amendment to the US constitution (part of the Bill of Rights) states:
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, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
On July 20, 2012 during a midnight showing of the film, “The Dark Night Rises,” James Eagan Holmes, 24 years old, opened fire killing at least 12 people and injuring 58 others. The news stories that followed this tragedy can hardly prevent each of us from pondering the state of gun laws in the USA. Also, just as after some previous similar tragedies, we communally wonder if there were any signs that the shooter needed psychological help. Did anyone observe any signs that we might have been able to use to avoid this needless violence?
I have a thought to offer on this topic. Cell phones now have GPS units in them. It is technologically possible to track every cell phone and thus the locations and interests of most people, to sift through all their messages, to link this information to credit card transactions by name, date, and address, to link this with web searches (Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc.) banking, academic, and medical records, and to link this with social networks (Facebook, Google+, etc). A whole lot about each of us is stashed in the “cloud.” It is just not organized. We could rather easily set up a national data-mine to sift though this information. It would then be possible to flag a Ph.D candidate with $26000 in grant support who is spending lots of money on guns and munitions and withdrawing from his studies. Except our constitution prevents it. Not just that, we are so accustomed to privacy, that our sense of ethics prevents it. So I ask. . .
Is the right to privacy a liability in a technological society? I’m starting to wonder which is worse, big brother or privacy?
Here are some opinions from others on this matter:
From IEEE Spectrum’s Inside Technology Blog, “Is Your Cell Phone Snitching On You?”
Robert J. Sawyer promoting his novels: “Privacy: Who Needs It?”
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