THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY:
I won't endeavor to define privacy here; I think we all have the same general understanding of what privacy is, what it means. But, what is the right to privacy? Most people who read this article probably don't realize that the right to privacy does not appear anywhere in the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. Nor does the right to privacy appear in the Declaration of Independence. Or at least, these words do not appear in the founding documents. So, where do we get this right to privacy as it is recognized today?
The right to privacy, at least the term, is a creation of U.S. Supreme Court case law. That is to say it was first given legal recognition by the judicial branch through its interpretation of the Constitution and its meaning along with the intent of the founding fathers. Although the specific word "privacy" and the phrase "right to privacy" do not appear in the founding documents, it is argued that the idea is there; the right exists, and it was understood by the framers that the right exists.
"... The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance … Various guarantees create zones of privacy. The right of association contained in the penumbra of the First Amendment is one, as we have seen. The Third Amendment, in its prohibition against the quartering of soldiers 'in any house' in time of peace without the consent of the owner, is another facet of that privacy. The Fourth Amendment explicitly affirms the 'right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.' The Fifth Amendment, in its Self-Incrimination Clause, enables the citizen to create a zone of privacy which government may not force him to surrender to his detriment. The Ninth Amendment provides: 'The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people' ...
The present case, then, concerns a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees. And it concerns a law which, in forbidding the use of contraceptives, rather than regulating their manufacture or sale, seeks to achieve its goals by means having a maximum destructive impact upon that relationship. ..."
Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479, 484 (1965)
ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY:
So, do advances in technology mean the death of privacy? Technology is becoming more and more advanced making it easier for others to invade our private lives without our consent or knowledge. This is true. But this merely means it is becoming easier for people to violate the right to privacy, nothing more. The fact that one person can violate another's right does not eliminate or reduce that right. This is the simple truth that all the would-be philosophers, legal scholars, and prophets don't seem to understand.
A simple analogy will help to make my point. Let's consider the right to life. Over history, it has become easier to kill. If we go back far enough, we'll come to a time when to kill another man, a man would have used his bare hands. Later, man began to use rocks and clubs to kill, then sharpened stones and metal blades. Of course, we know technology continued to advance. Man learned to use projectiles, slinging stones and firing arrows. Then, there were catapults and ballistas. Then, gunpowder came on the scene. With canons, muskets, matchlocks, flintlocks, semi-automatic rifles and handguns, machine guns, tanks, landmines, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons ... it has become easier to kill. Now, using the same reasoning that the "death of privacy" philosophers are using today, we'd have to conclude that the right to life is dead, for the same reasons that the right to privacy is dead. The reasoning is that because it has become so easy to kill me, this has diminished my right to live. Of course, this is complete nonsense. The fact that it is easier to kill somebody has absolutely no effect on that persons right to live. Just as we would reject the conclusion that we all no longer have a right to live, we must also reject the conclusion that we no longer have a right to privacy.
Advances in technology have made it easier to violate the right to life in the same way that advances in technology are making it easier to violate the right to privacy. And just as the right to life endures, so too does the right to privacy. There are laws that impose civil and criminal penalties for violating somebody's right to life, just as there are laws that impose civil and criminal penalties for violating somebody's right to privacy. That fact that somebody can violate a right, does not mean the right ceases to exist. It merely means somebody can violate that right. Therefore, protections are necessary.
There are people, respected for their apparent intelligence and insight, who proclaim the "death of privacy". These people are seen and heard by millions of Americans, and millions of Americans accept this philosophy. And what is this fallacious philosophy? It can be summed up in one sentence.
A right ceases to be a right when it can be easily violated.