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Out of reach – jj
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Out of reach

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“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin

It’s a complicated world and technology only evolves–and so does government policy. Translating constitutional rights to a digital world has never been easy, and won’t get easier.

Just imagine the Founding Fathers living to see the invention of the telephone and trying to imagine how our government’s authority and the rights of citizens would be shaped around it. Now throw Internet into the mix, and it seems like a grenade has exploded.

The next big battle between citizen rights and our betters in government will likely come through encrypted data, as in digital information that is protected so only certain people can see it. We already know the government can tap phones and get into your text messages if it suspects you’re engaging in illegal activity. Privacy rights advocates scream Fourth Amendment, but the National Security Agency says otherwise.

To protect the privacy rights of consumers, some tech companies are making data encryption a bigger priority. Apple is doing this with iMessage on the iPhone, encrypting messages sent over the service so no one but their intended viewers can access them, not Uncle Sam, not even Apple. WhatsApp and other companies have done the same.

Tech companies have essentially said, “You want text messages, Uncle Sam? Take them. We’ll start new ways of communication.” And suddenly having back doors to companies like AT&T and Verizon doesn’t really make much of a difference when phone makers like Apple and app makers like WhatsApp bypass cellular carriers with their online services.

All of this is starting to get a little frustrating for Uncle Sam. Here’s what Politico reported: “Senior Trump administration officials met . . . to discuss whether to seek legislation prohibiting tech companies from using forms of encryption that law enforcement can’t break.”

That’s alarming for more reasons than one. The government is essentially considering making certain locks illegal because it makes it harder to spy on its own citizens. That’s some real Orwellian territory.

We already have a real-world example of what a populace without privacy rights looks like. It’s called mainland China, a country where citizens are given a social score for how well they behave under constant government surveillance. Forget privacy rights.

Should American citizens have a right to spaces where Uncle Sam can’t reach them without a warrant? Some of us think so.

If Uncle Sam wants our private messages, he’ll have to get them the old-fashioned way: by going before a judge, convincing him or her of criminal activity and securing a warrant. One person at a time.

And that’s that. Until the next technological change challenges the system. It shouldn’t be long.

Four, three, two, one . . . .

Editorial on 07/13/2019

Print Headline: Out of reach

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