Personal Privacy - Do we really even want it protected anymore?

Author: Yana A. St. Clair, Esq.

In our last two issues we began to examine the crucial, and in many ways under-appreciated topic of data privacy.  Now before we go any further, I believe it is imperative that we first revisit the basic core principle of privacy, as I feel I may have miscalculated its place in today’s society, or the society we are certainly transforming into. 
The European Union has very stringent laws set out to protect an individual’s data, the majority of which became codified with the passage of the General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect on May 25, 2018.  The US on the other hand has virtually no universal law in place to ensure that an individual’s privacy remains, well, private.  That is, with the notable exception of California, where the majority of internet giants happen to reside…
But I digress.  The point is, when it comes down to it the reason for the drastic difference in data privacy laws is rooted in how much value is given to privacy.

The EU places the utmost importance on the protection of personal privacy, but this is because they treat individual privacy as a fundamental right. We should then logically conclude that the reason for the US’ disregard, essentially, for the protection of personal information, is that privacy isn’t considered all that important. Right? This would appear to be the logical conclusion, which has caused me a great deal of personal discomfort and led me to extensively ponder on the subject in recent months.

The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, but it is widely accepted as overall protecting a person’s right to privacy. Regardless of a defendant’s guilt, ultimately it all comes down to whether their attorney can get the evidence against them thrown out… The best course of action in getting crucial, and thus damning evidence against your client suppressed, is to successfully argue that it was obtained in violation of their 4th Amendment right, which often hinges on the question of whether the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

So back to our issue at hand, or I suppose my recent ideological dilemma regarding what at first glance appears to be the complete and utter disregard by the US legislature for individual privacy. As I continued to dwell on this subject, all of a sudden it hit me. Maybe what we should really be focusing on is whether there is any expectation of privacy which ought to be protected in the first place!

Back in law school we covered many cases which dealt with whether a person’s expectation of privacy was reasonable, and thus protected. One case which specifically springs to mind involved a conversation on a public pay phone, and the defendant’s reasonableness in expecting it to be private. The court looked to whether he was enclosed in a phone booth, not within ear shot of any passersby, how loud he had been speaking, etc.

But this isn’t the society we live in today! No one uses phone boots, and we are all too well aware that not only can the rest of Starbucks hear what we are yelling into our smart phone, but Google is instantaneously uploading and sharing key words, and who knows what else, with interested third parties.
But what about within the home, our private castle, which ought to remain protected and fortified from any curious eye. Well aside from the fact that courts are more than ok with ruling in favor of the government when it comes to the issue of why in the world is it necessary for a smart meter to report your activity every 15 minutes, which by the way has been ruled to be an invasion of privacy, but apparently a reasonable one, YOU are the one who invited Alexa into your home! The oh so helpful device which gives you the weather and plays your favorite music, also can, and does, pick up your conversation, and phone the police if it deems necessary.

And you knew this!  And you bought it anyway and brought it into your home! So where is your expectation of privacy now?
It used to be that one had to enlist the services of a private investigator to find out the activities and whereabouts of their subject of interest. Now all you need to do is follow them on Instagram, where they are more than willing to share their whole life “story” with you, and the rest of the world.
So maybe it’s not that the legislature is really all that in the wrong in not going out of its way to protect individual privacy.  Maybe it’s just that the new generation doesn’t even want privacy, and those of us who I suppose would nowadays be deemed “old school,” just need to come to terms with that, and move on...

Biography:

Yana is an American attorney licensed to practice in all State and Federal courts of California.  Yana holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science specializing in International Relations from UCLA, the Degree of Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School, and a Master of Business Administration Degree from Ashford University.  Since the beginning of her undergraduate studies, Yana has been involved in various aspects of the field of Electrical Engineering, where she employs her business and legal knowledge to consulting and advising businesses and individuals on relevant topics of concern. Yana also serves as Editor for PACWorld magazine, having been with the publication since its inception.  As an attorney, Yana specializes in criminal defense, where she devotes her talents and expertise to fighting for her clients’ rights and freedom.

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