Sinclair: Amend the Constitution with a right to privacy



Isaac Sinclair

During the past 20 years, technology has rapidly progressed and changed the way we interact with one another. We have become reliant on phones and computers, but in doing so, much of our personal information is more accessible than ever. Humans share more information quicker and more often than ever, but the flip side of this is that the government also has been collecting more information than ever before.

Government organizations like the National Security Agency have been collecting massive amounts of data from American citizens for national security purposes. This includes people’s internet searches, emails sent and received, social media activity, text messages sent and received, financial information and much more. This is an alarming amount of data collected from people who, for the most part, aren’t doing anything illegal.

This brings into question if this is an overstep of government power and if it’s violating any of our rights. It certainly feels like a violation of all our rights to privacy, but there’s just one problem with that: American citizens do not have the right to privacy.

Many citizens fairly assume that they have a right to privacy, which is being free from observation, and may restrain the government from actions that threaten the privacy of individuals, somewhere in the Constitution. But they don’t. Nowhere in the Constitution is the right to privacy explicitly stated.

However, it is strongly implied.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is one of the strongest places where the right to privacy can be found. It states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Some argue that these ideas of “papers, and effects” could be easily interpreted to mean our new technology and the internet. And they very well could, but it is not explicit enough to the point where it establishes the entire right to privacy. It is extremely vague, and, for a right that important, Americans need something more concrete to protect their privacy.

Along with the Fourth Amendment, the Ninth Amendment is another place where privacy could be argued to be implied. The Ninth Amendment states that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This means that there are other rights not explicitly written in the Constitution, and even though they aren’t explicitly there, it doesn’t mean they can’t be violated. Coupled with the Fourth Amendment, the implication of the right to privacy is there.

But just the implication of a right to privacy is not substantial enough.

The government has overstepped its boundaries when it comes to the mass surveillance of its own citizens. We have had our private information sifted through and analyzed without our consent or probable cause, all in the name of national security. Americans deserve better from our Democratic government than the line “If you have nothing to hide, you having nothing to fear.”

The right to privacy is also a human right at this point in time. With the increased prominence of technology in our lives and the connectivity it provides us, our right to maintain and protect privacy is more important than ever. That right should belong to every human on the planet, regardless of who you are and where you live. Technology has changed how we live our lives and the rights we have when it comes to using this technology. We have to redefine the rights we have, especially when it comes to how we share information and use technology.

To fix the lack of a clear right to privacy, we must amend the Constitution. That amendment would explicitly state that Americans do have the right to privacy, and it would scale back the massive government surveillance in place right now. Although amending the Constitution can often be a difficult and long process, it would be worth it because it would safeguard a right we should already have.

The right to privacy is not just a right we should have. It is a right we need.