Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 08.05.13
Just Outside Washington


Right to privacy? I don't think so.

The U.S. Supreme Court based its [Roe vs. Wade] decision, on a right to privacy in turn based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

However, a whole bunch of folks on the right side of the political spectrum do not agree with this decision and are working hard to overturn it. Also, a whole bunch of folks in the South (there is some overlap here) do not agree with the 14th Amendment.

Personally, I do not see an American right to privacy in either document and it looks as if many agree.

Thomas Jefferson laid down our governmental basics in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote "...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Liberty as we know it was created/defined during the Enlightenment -- "liberty: that is, of a free individual being most free within the context of a state that provides stability of the laws."

Within the context of social liberty, in On Liberty, John Stuart Mill sought to define liberty as the "...nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual," and as such, he describes an inherent and continuous antagonism between liberty and authority and thus, the prevailing question becomes "how to make the fitting adjustment between individual independence and social control."

Yeah, yeah, I know Mill was a little later than Jefferson but they drank at the same well. And, I see no right to privacy in the Declaration of Independence or in On Liberty, either.

So, some might say that we, the body politic, have adopted privacy as a social norm and it is now inherent in our pursuit of happiness. If that is true, why have we given it away?

Yes, we gave it away -- let me count the ways:

  • My mobile carrier knows which cell tower you are using and locates you within its radius, about five miles
  • My mapping app knows within a few feet and saving all your route requests is a piece of cake
  • I used my cell phone to board an airplane, so that record is available to the my carrier, the airline and to the TSA
  • Every purchase that I used my cell for, say at Starbucks for a latte, is recorded, both time and place. The friendly Starbucks computer can track my pattern and remind me it is time for my next latte
  • Speaking of purchases, every credit card purchase has the items, amount paid, location, date, time and merchant
  • We do not even have to buy -- all merchandise and services that we look at on line are recorded
  • Every website visited, download and posting is recorded; there is a contract which, of course, we all read before we agreed to it
  • You can buy systems to track your teenager's driving behavior including location, speed, acceleration, etc. We even do this on garbage trucks; your car is not far behind
  • Our state and local governments maintain records on our property and its value, our legal actions, criminal records, our kids' education, etc. And it is all accessible...there is much, much more.
We did not just give our privacy away. We gave it to a bunch of corporate entities, over which no one has control, which are using our data for their own purposes and selling it to others. As these corporations pass our data around, a bunch of hackers -- do not read friendly types -- are stealing it.

So why are we surprised and pissed off that the federal government is in the game? Give me a break!