Homework Help

To what extent does the United States Constitution protect the right of privacy?To what...

user profile pic

mslady | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted April 11, 2011 at 1:57 PM via web

dislike 2 like
To what extent does the United States Constitution protect the right of privacy?

To what extent does the United States Constitution protect the right of privacy?

7 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 11, 2011 at 2:10 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

This is a fairly interesting topic.  On one hand, the word "privacy" does not appear in the Constitution.  However, its presence can be felt in so many areas that one cannot help but feel that while the Constitution does not explicitly mention it, the Constitution strongly implies it.  The first ten amendments would be one such example where the implication of privacy is quite evident.  The establishment clause in the First Amendment regarding religion protects private individual worship.  The second amendment makes gun ownership a private issue and not one that can be eviscerated by the government.  The right to privacy can be seen in the third and fourth amendments, both of which seek to create a reasonable zone of privacy where individuals and their belongings are free of public intrusion.  Even the fifth amendment is rooted in this idea of judicial privacy, a realm where individuals can remain silent and not be coerced into giving false confession.  The ninth amendment's condition helps individuals establish private contexts that might not have been constructed in the prior amendments.  In this light, the Constitution's Bill of Rights holds a strong commitment to the right of privacy.

user profile pic

rienzi | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

The whole point to the Constitution was the formation of a limited government. The federal government's positive authority was supposed to be enumerated in the text. Personal privacy was protected because in theory the government could not intrude beyond its enumerated authority. Of course the tables have been turned on us and the issues of today require that an enumerated right of the people is needed to keep the government out of our privacy.

user profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 11, 2011 at 4:13 PM (Answer #4)

dislike 0 like

The whole point to the Constitution was the formation of a limited government. The federal government's positive authority was supposed to be enumerated in the text. Personal privacy was protected because in theory the government could not intrude beyond its enumerated authority. Of course the tables have been turned on us and the issues of today require that an enumerated right of the people is needed to keep the government out of our privacy.

The Constitution already protects our right to privacy.  The 4th Amendment, most importantly, protects us from excessive government intrusion.  If the government can violate this amendment, enumerating a right to privacy would not really make a difference.

I would argue that the Constitution protects the core of our right to privacy very well.  The government can't, in general, tap our phones or read our mail.  They can't point high-powered microphones at our houses and record our conversations.

It is only at the margins (or what most people think of as the margins) that our privacy might be threatened.  For example, the right of people to choose to marry someone of the same sex is not protected.  This could be seen as a privacy right on par with choosing what race your spouse will be.  However, many people don't feel that way so I'll characterize that as something on the margins of privacy.

user profile pic

rienzi | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 15, 2011 at 2:55 AM (Answer #5)

dislike 0 like

Sure, the Constitution is designed to protect us. The federal government though is not. The only protection is keeping the federal government within the confines of its original mandate. The real danger to our freedoms is not the occasional 4th amendment intrusion though that is bad enough, it is the people's acceptance of trading freedom for token benefits. By the way, the term "privacy" narrows the scope of our expectations; what we are really talking about here is the loss of personal freedoms.

The IRS, the Social Security acts, USA Patriot acts, REAL ID Act and Obamacare are just a fraction of the excesses that serve to transfer power and authority to the federal government and conversely sap away freedom. Some may find solace that our right to abortion remains intact. But that is the equivalent of treasuring the front door's deadbolt as the government takes your whole house.

user profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 16, 2011 at 9:31 PM (Answer #6)

dislike 0 like

With the Patriot Act, too, there was a  loss of privacy as emails, and other forms of contact by people can be now accessed if the FBI has "suspicion" of any covert activity.  This right of privacy is not preserved.

user profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted May 24, 2011 at 11:17 PM (Answer #7)

dislike 0 like

The intent of the Bill of Rights was not to enumerate the "rights" the government grants us, but rather the restrictions imposed upon the government by the Natural Rights of an individual.  Jefferson suggested that humans have innumerable rights, that the exercise of those rights is freedom, and that one's expression of freedom ends only where it impacts the rights of another individual.  Several years ago, the issue of "Free Speech Zones" came to light with respect to "regulating" where individuals could protest, and if such a concept was in violation of the 1st Amendment.  One judge correctly concluded that "the whole country is a Free Speech Zone!"  Similarly, as a 4th Amendment issue, one has privacy within the whole country.  One's privacy, as one's free speech, can only be circumscribed if its exercise impacts another's rights.  Or at least that's how it is supposed to be.  Where we are now, well, as others have stated, that's a different matter.

user profile pic

megan-bright | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted October 1, 2011 at 9:06 AM (Answer #8)

dislike 0 like

If a person is guilty of a crime, or is under some type of investigation, their rights to privacy are eliminated. Their computers, bank statements, medical records and everything personal with certainly find their way into court. Losing your right to privacy is something that I think everyone can easily be subjected to.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes