Each time someone uses the ATM, visits the doctor, uses a credit card, chats on the internet, or even makes a phone call, they are leaving electronic fingerprints. Nearly every quantifiable aspect of a person s life finds its way into a data bank some where. This information is sometimes studied, other times it is ignored completely, and yet other times collected and sold. It may perhaps be sold again, probably without the knowledge of that person. Privacy is becoming a great concern as technology and the continued expansion of the Internet threatens our ability to keep secrets. Privacy is one of our most cherished aspects of our lives. Although this is a great burden to many people, it is not always reflected in their behavior. We regularly trade off privacy for security and convenience. We depend of out credit cards, take comfort in security cameras, and use cellular phones. Each of these electronic advances can create more ways for business, government, or malicious individuals to get personal information. Technology has outpaced the law. There are not nearly enough privacy-related statutes and regulations as one would have thought, and even those rules may be shady in their protections. The government should fix or enforce the laws they have created, or create more, to help us preserve our privacy, but find middle ground where we don t lose our securities and conveniences. Theprivacy Act of 1974 was enacted as part of the Watergate-era reform, which regulates virtually all government handling of personal data. It is supposed to set up a code of fair information practices between Americans and their government. It obligates agencies to the greatest extent possible to collect only necessary information directly from the individual. It also calls on agencies to inform people of the agency’s authority to collect the data, of how it will be used, and of the consequences to the individual of not proving the data. The law attempts to unsure that individuals are not haunted by wrong or misleading agency records, by requiring that the government maintain all files with such accurate, relevance, timelines, and completeness as is reasonably necessary to assure fairness to the person. This law has forced most agencies to pay at least minimal attention to records and to observe basic records and correct inaccuracies. Thousands of people have done so. Agencies can no longer disclose records because there are penalties for abuse of personal data. Although this law has achieved in a few areas, it has not achieved its most important goal of assuring the people that information about them by the government for one purpose will not later be used for other purposes. Instead, the public is in part justified in thinking that the government invades information privacy more than it protects it. The government should enforce the idea that once information is collected by an agency, that agency can only use it for that sole purpose, and not sell it or distribute it to any other agency.
Technology has advanced to the point where virtually any phone conversation or any data transmission can be intercepted. In fact, the National Security Agency, the federal government s most secret body, was created to intercept communications. In 1923 the US Supreme Court held that wiretapping did not violate the Fourth Amendment since there was no searching, no seizure of anything tangible, and no physical trespass. In 1986, when Congress realized that the advances in technology required updating the law, Congress approved and President Reagan signed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). This law stated that the government must obtain a court order before wiretapping or otherwise eavesdropping on an oral conversation during which the parties would have an expectation of privacy. The downfall in these laws is that technology advances faster than the laws are made. Also, a violation of the Fourth Amendment occurs when government activity significantly intrudes on a person s reasonable expectation of privacy. Depending on the particular technology involved, it may or may not be reasonable for a cordless telephone user to expect his or her conversation will remain private. These laws do not protect all types of phone conversations from being intercepted. Radio communications are easy to monitor, and the law does not protect the radio portion of cordless phone conversations. This means that anyone can intercept transmissions between the cordless handset and the base unit. The ECPA also does not prohibit all forms of electronic eavesdropping. This is very important. The government should make any kind of eavesdropping illegal. A person can secretly record telephone and other conversations. The government seems like it is on the right track by protecting cellular phone users, but it is not protecting everyone. They need to look at every type of communication and set stronger regulations on them. Credit records and consumer reports are expected to be personal, but they are not. These credit cards and personal financial information are supposed to be for our convenience, but are really used against us. A credit record is basically information describing a person s previous financial transactions. There are six types of information generally found in credit reports: identifying information, financial status, credit history, existing lines of credit, public record information, and prior requesters. While individually many of these items are not particularly sensitive, together they reveal a lot about a person s lifestyle and habits. Credit bureaus can track individuals as they move from neighborhoods, jobs, lifestyles, and income levels. Credit reports are compiled primarily by credit bureaus, investigative- reporting agencies, and private- detective agencies, which sell their services to subscribers, creditors, employers, and insurers who need to make background checks on prospective borrowers, employees, and policyholders. Merchants protective associations, cooperative loan exchanges,
and other nonprofit groups may also perform credit- reporting services without charge or at a nominal fee. All these agencies and organizations maintain
permanent, often computerized records on the subjects of their investigations. These reports are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) of 1970. This act only applies to information collected and transmitted by a third party. Thus, a reference given directly by a former employer to a prospective employer, describing his own personal experience with an individual is not forbidden by this act. Both the courts and the Federal Trade Commission, which has responsibility for the administrative enforcement of the statute, have attempted to clarify specific kinds of reports to which the FCRA applies, often with confusing or contradictory results. Therefore, this law does not do what it is made to do. Because the limits in the FCRA are unclear and because the legislative history suggests that Congress intended a broad rather than a restrictive interpretation, these laws are ineffective. The government needs to set more restrictions that are more precise in what they say. There should not be opinions on what the laws mean because that leads to mass confusion and different interpretations of laws. Thus, privacy is very cherished by many people, and invasion of privacy only leads to problems. Everyone should have his or her own right to privacy and protection of personal information. It is not moral or acceptable to sell private information or conversations. People should be able to use their cellular or cordless phones, credit cards, and any other new technology without the fear of someone eavesdropping or stealing and selling their personal information, conversations, or credit records. This is a problem that the government needs to take care of and take care of it sufficiently. The government needs to make laws that are more detailed and say exactly what they mean, and not leave it up to the opinion of the enforcer. The government should fix and create laws to protect citizens, but so they maintain their conveniences of phones, radio, and credit cards.