Personal Privacy and Autonomy: A Constitutional Amendment?

Posted on June 22, 2013

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With all the news lately about the NSA and Facebook and Google hoarding gobs of info about everyone, and Microsoft introducing technology that shuts off video games if the player has an audience and monitors facial expressions, it seems to me it’s time this whole crazy mess is reigned in. The question is, how?

Someone on an online forum I frequented suggested the veil (a la birka/niqua’ab) might see a resurgence in popularity.

I think what we need is a Constitutional amendment to expressly secure personal autonomy and privacy from unwarranted intrusion by government and corporate entities.

What would such an amendment need to do?

  • Define personal privacy with at least a clue as to the minimum scope with regards to information. This should include medical information, internet and phone records, images and likeness, identity, financial records, etc. Defined succinctly and in a way that can be construed more broadly but not too narrowly.
  • Define “person” in a way that excludes commercial entities from the right to privacy and all the other rights in the Constitution that were intended to be secured to individuals, not huge corporate entities the likes of which I doubt the Founding Fathers conceived could or would ever have the power they do now. This would squash all the unrestrained corporate campaign financing, etc. along with help guard individual privacy and autonomy.
  • Guard individual privacy, both physical and digital/informational, from intrusion by government for civil or criminal investigatory purposes without a warrant. Different government entities should be barred from seeking information on an individual from each other or from corporate entities without a warrant, ever.
  • Close the “third party” rule that lets government do things like get its hands on your record of phone calls by forbidding government entities from seeking information on an individual from a commercial, business, or other non-governmental entitity without a warrant or express written permission from the individual. This would still let criminal A tell all about criminal B, but not A’s phone company, bank, etc. etc.
  • Bar the government from coercing written permission to access or share private information from individuals by making receipt of services for which they otherwise qualify, beyond inquiry into information needed to confirm qualification for the specific service.
  • Bar corporate entities from sharing individuals’ information without express written permission, a warrant, or a court order
  • Do all this in clear, brief language, because an amendment should be succinct.

Somehow, I think it’ll take wiser heads than mine to actually draft such a thing. And sadly, I suspect it has a snowball’s chance on the street in Phoenix at Midsummer of happening. People are too entrenched in their divisions to ever come together and overcome the Corporate Marketing Machine for it, even if it would suit individual liberty in ways even the Tea Party and the Niney-Nine Percenters could agree on.

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Posted in: Law