Generally Speaking: Privacy and CISPA

Quick Notes

Generally Speaking: Privacy and CISPA

Yet again I heard a group of people say to a few others that the word privacy does not appear in the constitution and that, even if it did, it wouldn’t be important. They also insisted that CISPA is good, and that laws passed, policies enacted, and actions taken for supposed national, and therefore personal, security are more important and effective than anything protecting the rights of individuals to privacy and personal security in a time of danger, something they equate to war. What those talkers don’t understand is that the constitution is about privacy and property and an individual’s right to the security of all of those things, for the word privacy is implicit throughout: it’s the basis of the constitution, and even the Declaration (the right to life, liberty, and the democratic pursuit of happiness are attainable only in a society guaranteeing privacy).

That surveillance of public spaces and people coming and going might occasionally assist police in prosecuting a petty criminal is true but it doesn’t enable prediction of crime, doesn’t prevent crime, and doesn’t guarantee prosecution of the right person for a crime: statistics prove that human error and dishonesty still trump technology. The purpose of law to protect private property and citizens and the role of publicly paid employees to find and punish those who’ve attempted or succeeded in stealing from or harming them is far from perfect. Security is an almost meaningless word now routinely used to trigger an imprecise sense of the lack of it or make one feel safe because our activities are increasingly recorded. So what that we are watched, listened to, screened, and analysed to the point of being stereotyped, stripped of our personal realities and too often caricatured for the sake of imbuing a social order more easily understood by those once paid to protect our rights? So what, proponents of ill-informed legal and security policy say, as long as we are safe from perceived threat?

For a start I’d rather support good old legwork and thoughtful analysis. Friendly, educated police on the streets getting to know the locals both prevent and solve more crime than any street camera system. Combined with careful, accountable use of available information by well-schooled analysts who know a bit about the world at large, they can work wonders and help protect people in a real sense without thuggish intimidation or violation of our national social customs and political ideals.

So it is that I oppose any legislation, including cybersecurity legislation, that allows or compels anyone, including companies or organizations, to provide or allow access to any private or otherwise sensitive personal information with the National Security Agency, military, other government or off-book agency, or any other organization, company, or individual. It is a long-standing American value that, on US soil, the right of the individual (particularly American citizens) to enjoy secure personal property and privacy trumps all governmental authority and efforts – however well-intentioned – to spy, to enter without invitation or permission, to search or to seize, including the person, without prior notification or proven cause and warrant.

That’s all for now! Good reading and good day.

Brian D. Sadie

2 May 2012


About Brian D. Sadie / eloquentb

Brian D. Sadie is president of the film company Eloquent Bastard Productions. He was formerly Executive Director of The Joseph K. Foundation: On Privacy and was recruited and hired as an analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency. His writing appears in publications as diverse as The Economist, Boston Book Review, TeenLife, and Informationen der Gesellschaft für politische Aufklarüng. Mr. Sadie is often a featured contributor to educational and Ed Tech entities about education and literacy. He graduated with honors from Harvard University in History and Middle Eastern Studies and was a Pew Fellow at Boston University at the Institute of Culture, Religion and World Affairs. He is an ardent sports fan and equally ardent critic of the business of sports.
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