Secrecy and Privacy

From the 4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,

against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.

You have a constitutional right to PRIVACY based on the 4th Amendment and the cases of KatzGriswoldRoe, etc. (Ch. 4). This means that the government can’t spy on you, watch you, listen to your phone calls, read your emails, etc., without either a search warrant signed by a judge, or “probable cause” (obvious evidence) of criminal activity.


Surveillance (spying) by the government

(any agency of the city, state, or federal government)


Surveillance (spying) by private parties

(can include companies who track, store, or monitor your data, your employer, family, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, stalkers, hackers, criminals, etc. – ANY person or group who isn’t part of the government)

Which one is more of a threat these days? Which one are you more afraid of? Why?

Considering everything you’ve learned about property rights, pursuit of happiness, civil liberties, privacy, and the government’s duty to protect your freedom and your safety, which are you more afraid of?

Being spied on by the government, or being spied on by private companies/individuals? Why? Which one is a greater threat to your property rights, your freedom, your pursuit of happiness and/or your life and safety?

Some things to think about:

  • Do social media and other companies have too much information about us? What are the pros and cons of them having this information?
  • Does our government do a bad job of respecting Americans’ privacy? How so?
  • Does the NYPD go too far towards law and order or too far towards letting people get away with stuff?
  • Would you rather the government have more respect for people’s privacy, even if it might make it harder for them to catch terrorists or criminals?
  • Or would you prefer that they have MORE ability to spy on suspected wrongdoers through surveillance cameras, drones, DNA collection, traffic cameras, email and phone snooping, etc.?
  • Would your answer be different if you had personal, family or community links to people suspected of being involved in criminal or terrorist activity?
  • Give an example when you felt the government was keeping tabs on you in a way you didn’t like (this can include CUNY, the Department of Education, the NYPD, your K-12 school, any part of the government).
  • Give one example of when your privacy was violated by a friend, family member, stranger, or an “ex”.
  • Give an example when you felt a social media or other company was tracking you, collecting data on you or violating your privacy by, say, penalizing you or exposing your personal info in a way you didn’t like.

Is this question part of your Assignment?

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