How the Right to Privacy is Changing in Today’s Modern World

Fri, Feb 28, 2014

General Legal Issues

Some rights reserved by Sean MacEnteeRemember when you didn’t really have passwords? You usually only needed a code word or secret phrase for your alarm system or your bank—there wasn’t much else you used them for. Your bank usually used your mother’s maiden name. And how easy is it for someone to find that out? For years, it has been suggested that you use a different phrase for your bank.

Now we have to know our password and usually tons of secret questions and answers for like everything we do because of the Internet. Those password measures have evolved over time too from Where were you born? to What is Your Favorite Cartoon Character?  and a gazillion other questions for the same account. That’s because it is so much easier to find out where someone was born due to online records. And of course it is always a good idea to change your passwords and/or secret questions over time and due to many situations like divorce, possible compromise of the information, or just because it’s been a while since you did.

So, we can see that the protection of our information has definitely progressed over time too out of necessity. The security of the sites we visit is continuously improved, as are the policies for people finding out our personal information.

However, the news that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring all sorts of people and their information in ways that many feel are inappropriate and illegal is pretty jarring to our sense of security. U.S. citizens were particularly concerned because they thought they had a right to privacy and that there were many measures in place preventing unauthorized information collection. Many thought they were also personally doing everything they could to protect their information and privacy…but now they have found they might be somewhat helpless in protecting it from everyone.

Many people probably don’t have to worry about the NSA monitoring them…because they aren’t or because they don’t really have any info of interest. But that really doesn’t matter to many people—it’s the idea that someone is monitoring them.

But then…some of those same people are probably checking in on the Internet at every place they visit, posting pictures of their pets and their kids and advertising their birthdate on Facebook without a thought. We can certainly see that privacy is changing somewhat through our own hand—because we are sharing lots of information that was once considered private or just didn’t have a way to be shared except with close friends or family. Using all the fun technology and utilizing the social media sites we all love can be treacherous.

So, think twice about telling everyone about your first car in some survey, who your kid’s teacher is, the name of your pet, etc. Especially if you use those things for your passwords or security questions. That’s because if someone really wanted to, they could create a whole dossier about you that is more complete than one the NSA probably could create by keeping track of your which phone numbers you call. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be outraged about someone monitoring you, but it is to say you should also be careful about mindlessly sharing everything online.

And then there is what your friends are sharing about you by tagging you. They might advertise to the whole world where your child attends school. And speaking about your child, monitor your child’s use of social media too. They could be sharing pictures of your house that show priceless antiques or be advertising too much about where they are at—creating an entirely different type of security issue.

Our right to privacy has long been lauded as a very important principal of our country. And that is still true. But this is all changing with our modern world, and should lead us to examine our own role in creating less privacy for ourselves.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith is a Lakewood Ranch, Florida attorney with SmithLaw Attorneys. He concentrates in bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. Call 941-907-4774 to learn more and to ask about our free consultations.

Image: Some rights reserved by Sean MacEntee

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