There are various areas where people’s rights and liberties are at risk of government intrusion. One of those areas is when people travel by airplane. Currently, in the United States, people need to give a great deal of personal information when planning to travel. Our bags are searched, our luggage is x-rayed, and the type of ticket and time that it was bought are closely analyzed. Many years ago, I was flying to get engaged to a woman who now is my wife. I carried the engagement ring with me through security. I was stopped and had to explain why I had the ring with me. While I viewed it as a minor inconvenience, I wasn’t too thrilled that I needed to explain to a TSA agent, a complete stranger, in public, that I was getting engaged. There should be a way to be able to declare what a person is carrying in a private manner so other passengers aren’t able to hear why somebody is bringing something onto an airplane. The same is true if somebody has a metallic implant in them. They should be able to go through security in a manner that doesn’t allow the public to hear about one’s medical conditions. Some expanded version of pre-TSA may be helpful in these situations.
Another area where people’s rights may be at risk is with communication by the Internet, by phone, or by text. It is very easy for government officials to monitor this kind of communication. There should be strict rules that need to be followed, and it should be fairly difficult for the government to get permission to monitor people’s communications and Internet activity. One reform would be to modify the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. If email were to be treated like regular postal mail, it would be more difficult for the police or for the government to get access to private, personal communications.
It is also very easy to track the movement of people. There are cameras everywhere people travel. Cameras on highways can help track a vehicle. When people use electronic devices to pay their tolls, they can be tracked. Cellphones report a person’s location, and some cameras on streets and within businesses, including government buildings, have facial recognition technology. All of these activities are done without a person’s consent and, in some cases, without a person’s knowledge. In some European countries, laws exist that protect against government surveillance and limit what kinds of data may be collected. There should also be limits on how long the information that has been gained can be stored and used.
It will be necessary for the court system to issue guidelines regarding these intrusions of our privacy. The courts need to be sure they safeguard the rights and the liberties that American citizens have based on the Constitution and the interpretation of the Constitution.