Governmental Power Placed Above Personal Freedoms Term Paper

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Patriot Act and current developments in the United States

In 2011, the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act made possible the tracking of small businesses and corporate affairs that are on the territory of the United States. The applicability of this law can be seen in the most common working spaces and, thru this, the confidentiality of the information shared and traded via the Internet becomes a matter of the past. The Patriot Act is therefore an issue of concern and at the same time a matter of ensuring security for the population of the United States. However, it is important to consider the price in terms of privacy that both the average American as well as its international counterparts need to pay in order to obey by the Patriot Act and the necessity for safety.

There are several aspects to consider. The Internet as a means of communication, the privacy as a trading unit for safety, and the efficiency or lack of when applied the Patriot Act.

The Internet has become an actual substitute for interpersonal and face-to-face relationships, for others a working environment. However, taking into account the fact that this is a virtual environment, we are also vulnerable to all challenges possible. There are many aspect of the information area which are unknown for the common Internet user or even for a well trained IT person. The fact that the world is in constant evolution, there will always be people and personnel that that will have a better knowledge and command of the system on which we are relying so heavily nowadays, the Internet.

The issue of vulnerability is indeed a matter of great concern. We are rarely taking into account the fact that the communication process can be traced and analyzed, especially by the federal government and in the light of the Patriot Act which allows the authorities to access private correspondence without notice. However, even in such situations the issue of privacy could be considered a debatable subject, if national security is invoked. People tend to be more opened to accepting the violation of mail, telephone conversations, or other type of communication when the reason is protecting national security.

The issue of privacy is the subject of discussion for a long time now. However, in the early days of the society, when people were the only ones able to invade your privacy and only through direct contact, the idea of "personal space" or even the usage of certain pronouns determined the limit of one's private area. In this sense, in a traditional perspective, "a person who wanted to keep some information from being generally available knew how to go about it. The drawn shade and the closed door preserved the privacy of his behavior; the locked drawer contained his confidential documents; only the ear of a trusted ally heard his secrets. His techniques to forestall discovery were of the same order as, and by and large adequate to, the means which others might employ to force disclosure"

.Therefore, it can be said that in the traditional understanding of the concept, the issue of privacy and especially privacy violation was considered to be a rather intimate affair and did not demand effort to maintain it, while being rather hard to break it.

Nowadays, the issue of privacy is automatically related to the idea of personal space and the security of one's personal data, be it on a job application or on the Internet. The alerts present of various sites which deal with personal information informing that no part of the information you provided would be used in means other than those for which you supplied them are rather common nowadays. This is largely because it is rather obvious that this global communication and the World Wide Web represent one of the most important ways through which one is denied of its privacy. More precisely, "high-speed computers process and distribute diverse bits of information garnered from the myriads of records now available about each individual. His home, his person, and even his mind are potentially at the disposal of others' curiosity"

. Therefore, we are currently experiencing a lack of privacy that is beyond our control or management. The Patriot Act has come as a legal framework to allow this privacy to be shattered and questioned.

Privacy can also be discussed from the point-of-view of the federal government. Having in mind elements such as the government's interference in our communication, or the lack of privacy concerning the people around us, it would appear normal that a proper environment in which one can be sure to have his privacy protected would be in a place locked by a password and security elements. Even though it is a virtual place, it should give us the sense of privacy and of confidentiality of our own thoughts and communication.

Internet privacy is nowadays a matter of the law precisely because it involves the protection of personal information and data. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act is such an act, as it considers "unlawful under certain circumstances for someone to read or disclose the contents of an electronic communication"

. The circumstances which are accepted by this law included the handling of personal information during the service an operator specially assigned provides

. However, in my personal case, it did not involve any exception from the law.

There is still another point to consider: the possible abuses of private information by the Government itself. In this sense, there have been arguments according to which the government is constantly controlling the activities of most individuals on the Internet, in the name of the general principle of the Patriot Act

. However it comes in contradiction with the fundamental right to a private life enshrined in the Constitution. Therefore, there is either the choice of respecting the privacy of every internet user and taking the chance to fail to detect possible dangerous plots threatening the national security, or admitting the breach of this fundamental right of the citizen in the hope that any possible threat to the integrity of the society can be averted and prevented.

Currently the debate over the power of the Patriot Act has extended above the common American being monitored on everyday activities and now involves even the corporate world After the issuance of the Patriot Act, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had the right and legal background to demand customer records through National Security Letters

Despite the fact that these orders were rarely if ever actually challenged, it raises the question on the limits of the National security reason that would allow the federal government to interfere in the private businesses of corporation. An thinking exercise can assume that, for example, an IT company that is based in the United States but deals or shares information in Europe can be fully verified by the federal government without a clear statement of the reasons. More precisely, assuming that the software company has datacenters in Europe or the Middle East which it uses to store vital information of its international and global clients, the federal government, seeing that it has the authority over the U.S. based company, can verify the datacenters that company has in Europe or the Middle East and the information provided by its customers are readily available for the federal government to access. In such a situation, the privacy of information that such a software company guarantees thru its services is no longer a certainty. Further, there may be clients, such as the ones in the Middle East that would care for the privacy of their information to such an extend as to choose another software company that would ensure no risk in sharing the information with any government.

Overall, it can be said that the Patriot Act…

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