The Line Between Right to Privacy and National Security

Story posted November 3, 2017 in CommRadio, News by Will Desautelle

An individual’s right to privacy is an ambiguous issue that has been debated for centuries. When the United States Constitution was written in 1787, a person’s right to privacy was outlined in the fourth amendment, but today there is still great uncertainty as to where the boundary to an individual’s right to privacy is. Moreover, when the Constitution was written, advanced technology was non-existent, making it much easier to conceal various aspects of what individual people deem as their private matters. Part of the problem with privacy is that technology and social media have become so prevalent in our society that there has been a significant decrease in security both on a personal level and a national level. In many cases, it has become quite effortless to gain access to anything because our modern technology allows people to do so. Where is the line between technology and security? The answer to this question is undefined, and it is extremely difficult to find the ideal middle ground between technology and privacy.

When attempting to dissect the ambiguous boundary between privacy and security, there are certain factors that I believe people should take into account. The right to privacy goes has many parallels to the freedom of speech. Although the freedom of speech is embodied in the first amendment of the Constitution, there are curtailments to this right. While I believe that the ability to express one’s beliefs is a necessary freedom in our society, a common misconception is that there are no restrictions to this right because the Constitution highlights that we have a right to privacy. The right for people to express themselves does not necessarily correlate with a right to chastise what others believe. Additionally, I believe that any form of threat that could jeopardize someone’s health should be taken very seriously and potentially compromise an individual’s right to complete privacy. For example, there is a substantial difference between wishing that someone could be killed, as opposed to actually buying a lethal weapon and planning to kill that person. That is where I believe privacy boundary should exist. When someone publicly threatens to jeopardize a person or group of people’s physical condition, the aggressor has abused the right to privacy and should not be ignored. Social media has also arguably become the primary cause of people undermining their right to privacy. Once people publicly announce their thoughts verbally or through social media, those thoughts are no longer private and are easily accessible to everyone as a result of how ubiquitous technology is today. In my opinion, people ultimately control their own right to privacy; however, when people utilize social media to express their thoughts, they have compromised their right no matter what their intention is. Utilizing social media does that mean they have waived all of their rights privacy, but their statements can now be viewed by anyone. The only real way to maintain personal privacy in a world with highly developed technology is to just to avoid using technology to express personal thoughts altogether.

The contrary side of this issue is deciding when law enforcement has the right to intervene. The fourth amendment of the constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. From my perspective, this statement means that authorities have no right to access a person’s private information without that person making a threatening public statement or action. For example, if I were a policymaker, I would not permit an authority to search a person’s home without directly witnessing an ominous threat from that person beforehand. A person’s home is part of one’s personal property rights and should not be inspected without having this reason. I would also not give authorities the right to infringe on an individual’s privacy based on their religion or cultural values, even if we do not necessarily agree with them. One of the more prevalent stereotypes in American society today that has existed since the September 11th attacks, is the belief that Muslim people should be treated as suspected terrorists. While this belief is understandable given the immense fear that swept through the nation following this disaster, this fear is also quite ironic given the fact that Islamic religion heavily emphasizes peace and proper treatment of others. Either way, I do not believe that this stereotype would be a valid reason to invade an innocent Muslim’s property rights. The only acceptable excuse to access the private information of any person of any background, in my opinion, is if the person deliberately takes an action to create a catastrophic event for others.

While I do think the government’s ability to access a person’s private property should be limited, I also believe that there is an unquestioned need for national security due to disasters like the September 11th attacks, as well as widespread bombings and mass shootings in the United States today. This issue concerns me from a personal standpoint due to my father’s status in the military. Every year, since the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred, he has been deployed once a year for at least a month to assist in the war on terrorism in the Middle East. For this reason, I feel that strong national security is essential in order to keep the soldiers overseas, as well as United States citizens, as safe as possible from potential future terrorist attacks. While this step may result in a decreased amount of privacy, I believe that this would be the best policy for our country. People would definitely have to be more cautious with what information they expose and probably would be uncomfortable with how little privacy they actually have. However, this policy would certainly increase security throughout the entire nation and maybe even prevent another terrifying national disaster from occurring. For the above reasons, I would make sure that national security is a top priority and urge people to be very cautious about how they use their limited privacy.

Will Desautelle is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. To contact him, email willdesautelle@gmail.com. 

About the Contributors

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Will Desautelle

Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Spanish

Will Desautelle is a senior from Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in Spanish and a certificate in sports journalism. Will is a contributor for Centre County Report and is a staff writer for GoPSUsports.com, covering Penn State men’s hockey and women’s volleyball. This past summer, Will interned at ABC-7/WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. and covered the Little League World Series as a beat writer for Little League International. Will has also completed internships with State College Magazine, the State College Spikes,  NBADraft.net and Armchair All-Americans. Additionally, he is a member of the Penn State Men’s Club Volleyball team, which finished first place at nationals in 2019, and is a member of the THON Communications Committee. You can contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on Twitter @wdesautelle.