As technology becomes more integrated in our lives, we must ask at what cost do we enjoy this integration. The use of Google and email, texting, and the sharing of information we fail to see ourselves slowing giving up information in exchange for the privilege to use these technologies. Something that might baffle you is that there is access to your information by these companies that you have intrusted your information to. This, in the traditional sense, wouldn’t be a problem. However, in this competitive age every business is looking to get ahead by any means possible. In their eyes obtaining user information can serve as an asset towards better assisting them in the way they cater to your needs. But in the eyes of the government this is seen as an opportunity to obtain information about the American public. This is where we cross into ethical issues with how our information is handle. Many companies, like Google, have publicly stated that the government has inquired, fishing for user information. Google was smart and said it has denied access to the United States government.
An interesting turn of events occurred recently when New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown ruled that law enforcement agents can track people’s cell phones without a warrant. He said in his ruling statement that, “Given the ubiquity and celebrity of geo-location technologies, an individual has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the prospective of a cellular telephone where that individual has failed to protect his privacy by taking the simple expedient of powering it off”. This implies that because you’ve decided to keep your phone on that you have no rights to the personal information within it. In a sense, the ruling is based on the idea that when you place information within your phone, knowing it’s access to the internet and GPS tracking, that you are willingly placing your information in a device that is capable being accessed by outside entities.
In response to a recent congressional inquiry into cell phone surveillance, cell phone providers reported that they had received over 1.3 million requests from US law enforcement agencies for consumers’ cell phone data records throughout 2011. Even if half of the requests have been allowed, 500,000 Americans are still unaware of their information being collected by the government. The interesting part here is that the process of collecting information is simply through accessing the technology not an actually “collecting” in the traditional sense. The bottom line is that the information is freely given by users making it a very simple process to gain the information of the public.
When questioned about whether or not it was possible or plausible to collect exactly what had been mentioned in past digital cell phone calls, Tim Clemente(FBI counterterrorism expert) said, “We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said… “! This asserts the reach of the government. Meaning, we need to be honest with ourselves about the long reach of the government. The technologies are wonderful tool with a liberty-impending dark side.
The current presidential administration recently acknowledged that they have made deliberate use of the IRS to target conservative individuals and groups containing word specific names. This only signifies that this administration is inclined to target people for further scrutiny if it facilitates their objectives.
The question here is not if the government has over stepped their judicial bounds by attempting to make a power grab towards our information via technology. The question is that when are are going to learn to not give up our information so freely? The government is at fault to some degree, but we must keep ourselves accountable as well.