Privacy in America: How We Have Changed

How has American people's value of privacy been affected by our new technological age?

By Jack P. from Okemos High School in Michigan

Something that our country has held to high importance consistently is the value of privacy. A survey from 2015 shows that “93% of adults say that being in control of who can get information about them is important; 74% feel this is “very important’”(Madden, Rainie). American people's need for privacy stems as far back as the Bill of Rights, where the 4th Amendment declared that everything you own is protected by the government and cannot be accessed without a warrant. However, this amendment did not account for information that is kept electronically. The law protecting electronically held information was passed in 1986, before the World Wide Web was available (“Privacy & Technology”). America’s value of privacy comes down to the American citizen’s right to be independent, and with independence comes security. In today’s age, where social media and search engines can track your every move to better fit their algorithm, it begs the question, is our privacy being sacrificed?

More Americans are progressively storing more of their private information online, which brings many questions of the safety of these online storage options. As more information is discovered on hacking, the more ways we have found to protect ourselves and secure our information. One of these methods is to “password protect everything from your main screen to your banking apps” (Myhre). Using complex, non-obvious passwords can help to maintain your privacy. Location tracking is also common among apps today, which many people are against because it requires you to “give up your privacy and let the world and companies know where you are at all times” (Myhre). It can be a helpful feature, especially when used in apps such as Google Maps, but many Americans are concerned about apps knowing where they are every hour of the day, leading back to the strong necessitation for privacy among the American people.

The most recent occasion in which an issue of privacy went to the Supreme Court was in late November of 2017. The ruling dealt with whether “authorities need a warrant to access cell tower records that could reveal a suspect’s whereabouts” (Barnes). This could allow law enforcement to have access to anyone’s phone records, including your location, whenever they want, without the need for a warrant. The ruling, which had “a strong bipartisan coalition in Congress”(Timm) on the side of pro-warrant, ended up ruling in favor of that side. For the next several years, at least, police and the government need a warrant to access cell information. Americans from both political parties value privacy and will work to maintain it for all citizens on the internet.

Our technological world keeps changing and American people are beginning to embrace this change more and more as new generations join in the conversation. However, as technological power increases, so does the need for privacy and protection from technological abilities becoming out of hand. In order to preserve our American value of privacy, we must find where technology fits and improves our lives, and where it doesn’t.




Works Cited

Barnes, Robert. “Supreme Court confronts how technology impacts U.S. notion of privacy.” The Washington Post. 28 November 2017. www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-confronts-how-technology-impacts-us-notion-of-privacy/2017/11/28/f30d4a36-d434-11e7-95bf-df7c19270879_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4be2a2c0ee15

Madden, Mary. Rainie, Lee. “Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security, and Surveillance” Pew Research Center. 20 May 2015. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/05/20/americans-attitudes-about-privacy-security-and-surveillance/

Myhre, Julie. “Technology Is Invading Our Privacy” DMN. 20 August 2013. www.dmnews.com/data/blog/13043155/technology-is-invading-our-privacy

“Privacy & Technology” ACLU. www.aclu.org/issues/privacy-technology

Timm, Trevor. “The future of American privacy rights will be defined this year” The Guardian. 30 November 2017. www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/30/future-privacy-aclu-supreme-court

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