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USA Patriot Act And Other Examples Of Government Privacy Invasion

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Privacy is very important to everyone. Everyone needs their individual privacy and when one feels as if someone or something is invading their privacy, they may become uncomfortable. Many people suspect governments all around the world of invading their privacy in numerous ways. The main reason why many governments invade the privacy of their citizens is to protect them from terrorism. Since September 11, 2001, there have been monumental increases in the government’s role in civilians’ everyday lives. This role has led many to oppose the government’s stake in their everyday lives. This is a very controversial topic with many reasons to be in favor or against this increase personal privacy invasion. The government in many ways protects the wellbeing of a citizen of their respective countries, although there is potential for abuse and misuse of protective programs. From the beginning, there was an act passed just after the horrific 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City. This act was called the Patriot Act which was officially published on October 26th, 2001. The outline for the act was not only based on the events of 9/11, but also the “Foreign Intelligence Service Act of 1978”. Which also became a very controversial act because of its “Section 702” which clearly stated that the government intercepts billions of international means of communication including phone calls, email, text messages, and video chats sent or received by Americans even when they have nothing to do with national security. So, when the Patriot Act was put into place, it allowed the following: law enforcement to use surveillance and wiretapping to investigate terror-related crimes, federal agents to request court permission to use wiretaps to track specific terrorist suspects, delayed notificated search warrants to prevent terrorists from learning they are a suspect, federal agents can obtain federal court permission to collect bank and business records to support national terror investigations and prevent money laundering from terrorism orgainizations, improving information sharing between government agencies, providing tougher punishments for terrorists who have been convicted, search warrants can be obtained in any territory where terror-related crimes occurs, ending the “statute of limitations” for specific terror crimes, tougher restrictions on non- United States citizens involved in terrorist organizations to enter the US, providing assistance to terrorist victims and public safety officers who are involved in investigating, preventing, or responding to terrorist attacks. There are many positive outcomes of passing the Patriot Act with regards to the aforementioned list.

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However, the government can use their new abilities on harmless, law abiding civilians who do not wish to have their privacy invaded. Some of the specific controversies that citizens are worried about with the Patriot Act in place include the collection of massive databases that store personal information, wiretapping on personal phones and talking devices, and allowing the government to use “Sneak and Peaks” which includes warrants to minor crimes instead of terror cases. This can lead to being found guilty by association even if one lacks personal connection with the suspect, coming into contact with them can make you a target as well. With all of these negative attributes to the Patriot Act, it is easy to see why many people would be worried about their personal information being sorted out and examined in detail by the government. The central point for government agencies to track your every move is through the internet. Using technology is the easiest way for government agencies to keep tabs on you. From posting pictures on social media platforms to purchasing items on Amazon or Ebay. As stated in the article, “The unconstitutional surveillance program at issue is called PRISM, under which the NSA, FBI, and CIA gather and search through Americans’ international emails, internet calls, and chats without obtaining a warrant… This included at least nine major internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Apple, and Skype”. Basically, this program will gather massive collections of data from these sites and keep it stored to look back on at any time. Investigators can simply search into anyone’s personal emails, phone calls, and text messages without judicial approval. This is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment states specifically “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause”. Many Americans are angered with their Fourth Amendment being violated and demand revisions of the PRISM surveillance program. Another way governments can track citizens is through surveillance. For example, there have been major on-going protests in Hong Kong against a law would give the government the right to extradite suspects of a crime to mainland China where they would be prosecuted indefinitely. These protesters want democracy and are doing whatever it takes to accomplish that mission. The Chinese government has integrated a new surveillance system to keep constant watch over the citizens that live there. This new system is facial recognition cameras placed on top of light posts. These cameras watch citizens’ every move and use this information to collect data about you. There have been an estimated 172 million cameras placed in China to watch citizens. Protesters have taken many measures to remain undetected. Even the police have their own camera crews to record protesters in hope to later gather evidence to arrest them. Protesters have been hiding their faces with surgical masks, umbrellas, using untraceable cell phones, paying for transportation in cash, and cutting down lamp posts with electric saws. Every citizen of Hong Kong receives an ID card with all of their personal information on it. Police can scan their cards to reveal that person’s identity. In order to combat this, the protesters have figured out is to wrap tinfoil around the cards to avoid detection. These massive protests are put together through encrypted social media groups to organize where to meet every weekend. Most of these protests remain peaceful although, an increasing amount have turned violent lately. More than a thousand protesters have been arrested since the movement has begun.

At the moment there is no end in sight for these protests. Another example of invasion of privacy is going on in Saudi Arabia. Overseas in Saudi Arabia there is an app for any mobile device created by the Saudi government itself that solely restricts a woman’s ability to travel, live in their own country, and use government services. This app called “Absher” purposely violates women’s rights and privacy and is available to purchase on Google and Apple market stores. The app demonstrates possibly the largest scale of invasion of privacy and basic human rights towards women across the country at its finest. The “Ring Doorbell” is another example of people’s invasion of privacy. Your identity can be exposed when seemingly harmless footage is put into the wrong hands. Not only can the government use facial recognition to figure out individuals’ identities, but knowing that an outside source other than the owner of the bell can potentially be watching can make buyers very uncomfortable to own or approach these doorbells. RU As stated by Sam Biddle: “The miniature security camera maker Ring, which was acquired by Amazon in 2017 for a reported $1 billion, has a history of inadequate oversight of the data collected by those cameras on behalf of its customers. In 2016, it reportedly granted virtually unlimited access to its Ukraine-based research and development team to a folder on Amazon’s S3 cloud service that held, unencrypted, every video Ring cameras around the world had recorded in order to compensate for weaknesses in its facial and object recognition software. By 2019, a team of humans was still watching and annotating customer video, both external and internal to help its Neighbors system function, though without notifying customers. Ring also granted its US executives and engineers privileged access to the company’s technical support portal, which would have given them at-will access to some customers’ live feeds.” In contrast, there are also benefits of having these recording devices, such as being able to catch criminals trying to burglarize your home or as simple as mistreatment of packages left at your doorstep. In conclusion there are countless ways the government can invade its citizens’ privacy without the majority of them even knowing. From surveillance and wiretapping to apps and everyday appliances, the government feels the need to keep their stake in private lives. With the rise in technology these problems we face now will only become more ingrained into everyday life and possibly even harder to detect or stop by those who protest. Even if one can not protest these actions such governments partake in, staying informed is resourceful when confronted with these problems.

01 February 2021

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