Of All Places for Big Brother to Find a Home

Not long after World War II broke out in 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which required 120,000 Japanese-Americans to “relocate” to “internment” camps because the government feared any form of Japanese spying and further retaliations against America. In various court cases, defendants claimed violation of their Fifth Amendment rights, but to little avail. The Supreme Court usually favored the U.S. government.

Not only have times changed little in this regard, they might well have gotten much worse. As most Americans know by now, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was enacted, “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” What too many Americans do not realize is how much the act infringes upon Amendments IV, V, and XIV (due process) of the Constitution. Our country’s essential liberties, the ones that define us, are under siege.

Since the Patriot Act, the government has been able to encroach on the privacy of Americans, and even non-American citizens, through secret searches, government surveillance, and the dissent of free speech. Government agents now have the “legal” right to make themselves privy to nearly anyone’s electronic files, texts, emails, phone calls, and even financial information without probable cause or due process. As a result, government spying on the activities of everyday Americans has reached an all-time high, and yes, the government could easily be spying on you right now.

“Tracking” is the term used when one is pursuing or following another. In this case, the government is tracking Americans without most of us ever knowing it. With the ever-advancing technologies of the 21st century, government tracking has become effortless. Nowadays, the average American carries around various electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops or tablets, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). As long as any of these devices are on, any American, no matter where or who she is, can be conveniently tracked, and without a warrant. A smartphone, for instance, constantly registers its position to local cell towers, updating its current location to mobile carriers every few minutes. This allows government officials to gain an excessive amount of personal data, including personal activities such as church, synagogue, and mosque visits, medical treatment occurrences, and personal communications of most any kind.

Within the past few years, the government has begun to use automated license-plate readers. Although these readers are used to locate criminals, they have become yet another way for government officials to track you should someone in the government wish to do so. Similar to cell phones, automated license-plate readers track frequented locations by people, eventually piecing together the typical day in the life of the average Joe. What happens with all of this tracked information? By tracking personal information, the government is also capable of tracing every one of your historical activities that left any kind of recordable mark.

Though tracking and tracing are very alike, tracing is better understood as the track left behind by an individual. Imagine a Facebook “Timeline” that chronologically lists every phone call, email, website visited, text message, credit card purchase, online search, library book check out, and travel itinerary. Now, imagine a building with an enormous database that holds the Facebook Timeline of every American citizen for any number of years.

All the information the government accumulates through tracking must be stored somewhere, somehow, for later access, and here is where things grow even more Orwellian. And one needs to consider the Utah Data Center, a vast corporate database in Bluffdale, Utah that stores (for up to five years) and processes all information currently being gathered from Americans. This “data mining” includes records of telephone conversations, personal emails and text messages, visited websites and Google searches, credit card transactions, travel itineraries, GPS location data, social networking activity, traffic tickets and surveillance footage, medical records, and more. Facilities such as this prove how intrusive the government has become in our lives, and you have to figure that this is just the beginning. The Information Age is still in its infancy.

With outdated privacy laws and enabled legislation like the Patriot Act, Big Brother is now alive, well, and tracking and tracing American citizens, anywhere and at any time. In the midst of the Global War on Terror, the ordinary American’s right to privacy has been violated. Although government tracking and tracing was ostensibly designed to protect national security and prevent future terrorist attacks, why target millions of innocent, law-abiding American citizens? Amendment IV protects us against the unwarranted search and seizure of personal property. Unfortunately for the future of our country, neither of the candidates running for President cares enough to take this issue seriously and remedy the problem. To our utter amazement, quite the opposite seems to be happening.