The right to privacy

Over 100 years ago, Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis helped kindle the American lust for a right to privacy in their article “The right to privacy.”* Decades later, Brandeis (now Justice) got to revisit his march for privacy in his dissenting opinion in Olmstead:* privacy is “the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment.” Fast-forward to Katz,* the Supreme Court held that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy from governmental intrusion.

With technology creating digital I.D.s, does our “right to privacy” translate well into our digital lives, where our information is collected and stored by many others? We submit sensitive information like our name, date of birth, weight, and height; most information collectors store this and users go on with their lives. With data breaches becoming far too familiar, more U.S. citizens are becoming concerned with digital privacy. Security systems are fallible; locks can be broken. The only solution: never provide sensitive information. But even governments are moving into exclusively digital services requiring citizens to transact online. Filing taxes online is nothing new, and many other applications and forms usually are submitted digitally to federal and local governments. Our dealings with governments via the internet indicates our governing bodies want us to live digitally, yet there still is no one data-protection law covering us. Perhaps it is time for a federal digital privacy-protection act. ❖

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