Let's Talk About It!

with host John Panesko

Privacy? What privacy?

Tell me about your privacy. You can buy 160 acres and put your home right in the middle of it so no one can see what you are doing. Or you can own a home in town and put up a high fence and keep your blinds drawn tight so no one can see what you are doing. Physical distance or physical barriers should prevent anyone from seeing what you are doing on your land, or in your house.

All that is changing.

Technology exists for anyone to have clear vision over several miles to observe minute details at a distance and to broadcast those details to any point around the world. You won’t know they are watching.

Technology exists for anyone to point a laser at your window and by the reflection, to hear any conversation in that room, or maybe even anywhere in the house. Windows act like transmitters, vibrating in response to sounds inside. You won’t know they are listening.

Technology exists for anyone to drive by your house and use thermal imaging to see where persons are located in your house, even with the blinds drawn tight, and maybe they can see what you are doing as well. You won’t know they are watching.

Technology exists for anyone to fly an unmanned drone high above your property and observe anything that can be seen from the air. Over 300 law enforcement agencies and research institutions in the US have licenses from the Federal Aviation Agency to fly drones and see whatever they can see from the sky. You won’t know they are watching.

It really doesn’t matter whether we are being observed by the government or by private companies, our lives are be observed in ways we never dreamed of. Our emails and cell phone calls are monitored, every site we visit on the Internet is tracked including the amount of time we spend there, our credit card purchases are analyzed, our bill payment histories are shared and our vital information, including our mother’s maiden name, is known by so many agencies it’s no longer considered private information.

Our founding fathers put restrictions on government in an age where the government was limited by the human senses. Technology has expanded our powers of observation a million times over. Is there really any such thing as “privacy” any more?

Unfortunately the battlefront of these privacy issues will be decided in courts where the government will be fighting criminals hiding their wrongdoing. The courts will have facts that cry for rulings in favor of the government and against the criminals. I expect courts to tend to rule in favor of the government, giving it more power, and against the criminals, giving them less privacy. Those of us interested in limited government are lumped in with the criminals on this issue.

Buying a large plot of land or putting up a fence and pulling the blinds are useless gestures in a battle against more intrusion into our lives. But then consider young people plastering all their personal information and intimate details on the Internet for everyone to see. Don’t expect them to be upset with a government that can see more, hear more and know more than we’re used to.