The Fourth Amendment says 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.”
I recently watched a recent PBS series segment, “The Constitution with Peter Segal: Does privacy still exist?” and a 60 Minutes story on facial recognition software by Lesley Stahl. I poise the question, are we giving away our right to privacy as implied in the Fourth and other Amendments in the Bill of Rights?
Yes and no. No law enforcement agency can walk into your home of office, begin a search and take your property without a legal warrant to do so. But try going through airport security and not surrendering your right not to be searched without a warrant. Good luck with that.
Every day we share personal and professional information on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, through credit card use, our cell phone GPS, etc. without ever considering the consequences of such actions. (I wonder if Edward Snowden is a Verizon customer.)
In the recent PBS series segment Segal interviewed Efrat Cohen, a private investigator who uses “dig deep” techniques to gather information on people and businesses. Her advice for absolute privacy is to shed all technology devices, credit cards and mobile devices, and move to a small island.
Did you post your complete date of birth, home or office address, names of family members on a social media site? Do you share your travel plans or post photos online while you’re on vacation? Is there anyone at home guarding the fort?
Perhaps you liked Bob’s First Savings Bank on Facebook, which happens to be your bank. One day you receive a security alert from BFSB saying your account may have been comprised, and would you just click on this link to provide a few pieces of account information. Hmmmm?
But the surrender of our rights goes much further than social media. Have you filed a rental application, applied for a mortgage, or received a traffic ticket? Most of it is available online.
Today almost anyone can find financial, legal, and reputation information about you personally and professionally. Your personal and professional information is available through Google Search, and other public sites that you may not know. Hire a professional investigator, add a dash of forensic accounting and expertise in technology – voila! All that is needed is your name, date of birth, recent address, and if a social security number is found…Now consider all of the photos and videos you have shared on line, or where you have been tagged by friends. In her recent 60 Minutes story, Stahl reported that facial recognition software is used not only by government agencies, but also by marketers.
In the near future, when you walk into a restaurant or stroll through a shopping mall, cameras capture your face, compare it to a database and search social media likes to create an instant “pitch” of a product or service they offer that you “liked” on Facebook.
As important, facial recognition software is available to anyone for free download. Take photos from your phone and run the software. Think about that. A complete stranger can use a phone to photograph you and then run a facial recognition search. If he or she locates you online, what information will be learned?
If you’re curious about information readily available to the general public, just run a search of yourself on Google Search or Google Images. Oh BTW, when was the last time you changed your passwords?
(Special thanks to Paul G. Neilan, of the Law Offices of Paul G. Neilan, for Spencer Maus)