NSA data collection changes should be just the beginning

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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CNN reports that President Obama today “will announce the end of the controversial NSA telephone metadata collection program ‘as it currently exists.'” Nobody credible wants to neuter our nation’s ability to to protect its citizens, but this sort of discussion is a long time coming. And, I would argue, should be just the tip of the iceberg.

Emerging technology has impacted privacy concerns in ways the founders could have never envisioned. If you don’t think it’s time for a national conversation about this, consider the following examples:

1. As Sen. Rand Paul has stated, “under current law, your e-mail, your text messages and other electronic communications do not receive the same level of protection as your phone calls do.” Question: Why, I repeat, is it wrong for the government to read a letter you left in your desk drawer, but not wrong for them to check your email without a warrant?

2. Xbox One Kinect uses facial recognition to determine who’s using the system. Question: How long before every electronic device knows who’s using it?

3. In a dissent, Justice Scalia recently warned that “your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.” Question: Doesn’t this constitute an unreasonable search and seizure?

Whether it’s government increasingly coming down on the side of condoning suspicionless searches, or businesses finding ways to monitor, track, better serve, or target advertising to you, the trend is clear. In the modern world, privacy is out the window.

The potential for abuse is almost limitless. This could include bribery, hacking, spying on people via webcams, and selectively leaking embarrassing or incriminating information about you. Whether it is the government who betrays you — or some skeevy internet site — matters little.

To be sure, Americans are already giving away too much information on social networks, but that is voluntary. How long before a candidate for president has his browser history leaked?

There are so many questions to be answered, including: Who owns this information? Do we give away their privacy rights when we blithely clicking “accept” when they sign up for a service or social network?

Will the law seriously punish companies and individuals who abuse your privacy? Or have we collectively decided that the government can search our electronic property without probable cause?

It’s time to rethink how the founding father’s intent should apply to modern communications technology.