Privacy in the United States.

The following map from Privacy International shows the state of privacy in the world as of 2007:

State of Privacy

As you can see, the United States ranks with China and Russia in the violation of citizens’ privacy. Privacy International’s comments about the U.S. — again, this is as of 2007 — follow.

  • No right to privacy in constitution, though search and seizure protections exist in 4th Amendment; case law on government searches has considered new technology
  • No comprehensive privacy law, many sectoral laws; though tort of privacy
  • FTC continues to give inadequate attention to privacy issues, though issued self-regulating privacy guidelines on advertising in 2007
  • State-level data breach legislation has proven to be useful in identifying faults in security
  • REAL-ID and biometric identification programs continue to spread without adequate oversight, research, and funding structures
  • Extensive data-sharing programs across federal government and with private sector
  • Spreading use of CCTV
  • Congress approved presidential program of spying on foreign communications over U.S. networks, e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, etc.; and now considering immunity for telephone companies, while government claims secrecy, thus barring any legal action
  • No data retention law as yet, but equally no data protection law
  • World leading in border surveillance, mandating trans-border data flows
  • Weak protections of financial and medical privacy; plans spread for ‘rings of steel’ around cities to monitor movements of individuals
  • Democratic safeguards tend to be strong but new Congress and political dynamics show that immigration and terrorism continue to leave politicians scared and without principle
  • Lack of action on data breach legislation on the federal level while REAL-ID is still compelled upon states has shown that states can make informed decisions
  • Recent news regarding FBI biometric database raises particular concerns as this could lead to the largest database of biometrics around the world that is not protected by strong privacy law
    The “immunity for telephone companies” mentioned in the eighth point passed, of course, relieving telecommunications companies of any liability for having illegally shared your phone records with the government. Every single Republican senator at the time (2008) voted for that immunity — except two who were absent. Among the 22 Democrats who voted with the Republicans and against your rights was then-Senator Barack Obama.

    Thanks to Alceste for calling this to my attention.

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    2 Responses to Privacy in the United States.

    1. Ahab says:

      It has been troubling to watch the U.S. slip into a surveillance state with very little outcry from lawmakers or the public. The recent controversy over TSA scans and pat-downs is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to be mindful of these things or we’ll lose even more privacy.

    2. We have been lulled into complacency. Yet it never fails to amaze me that people will camp out in the cold on Thanksgiving night so they can be in line to get a good deal on a television. If they would only put the same amount of effort into being informed about their own government and society …. It’s alarming to me when people care more about consumption than the constant whittling away of their basic human rights.

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