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A balance of surveillance and privacy

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Student
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physics &...
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Austin G.
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documents in English
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term papers
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In the twenty-first century, we have technological capabilities that are far superior from twenty years ago. New technology has opened the doors for surveillance techniques to vastly improve. The government now has ways to watch any person at any time, track them by GPS, and listen in on their calls, read text messages and email correspondences, and even can check their internet history. Legislative checks and balances are in place for each of these surveillance capabilities. In the following paragraphs I will discuss each type of surveillance method and the laws in place for keeping them in check, and also my opinion on each of these laws and whether they err too far to general safety or if they infringe too much on a person's right to privacy.

The fourth amendment of the United States Constitution gives protection to citizen's privacy and property. The government is not allowed to search anyone's property, whether it is a physical property or digital, unless they have a search warrant. This warrant should only be granted to law enforcement in cases of lawbreaking where there is probable cause. This all becomes very controversial when new ways of surveillance are used to catch criminals because it raises questions on whether or not the surveillance method used is constitutionally supported or not. The problem with the fourth amendment is that it does not really define what a search is, and what probable causes are. This is because at the time of its creation, congress was only considering a physical search of a person's property. This is easy to define as just law enforcement entering a person's private property and looking for evidence of a crime committed. Today things have changed since now there are new ways of communicating and storing information such as the internet and phone calls. It is harder to define what is illegal and what isn't in searching of people's private property.

[...] The ability to listen to calls and read messages between citizens with no real checking system is a real invasion of privacy that is seen much more than government intervention in GPS tracking or UAV use. The government is allowed to listen in on conversations between Americans and those overseas without first obtaining a warrant. The only real privacy protection that these citizens have is that after the government listens in on a conversation they must submit their reasons for listening to the conversation to a secret judicial omitted which will approve whether or not the wire tapping was justified. [...]


[...] The government has caught numerous criminals due to searching of online history, and this is a great reason to allow government access to personal files. This method is abused much less often than that of wire tapping which is comforting for citizens since viewing what someone has searched online can tell a lot about a person. Satellites also offer a way to spy on our own soil, but contrary to common belief, this is the least obtrusive form of surveillance. [...]

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