I’ve had many discussions with Brian about the US government and politics and such. One of the main points of disagreement that we always come around to is whether privacy is a right granted to the people of the United States.

His position is that privacy is not a right. The governement has as much or more freedom to revoke your privacy as it deems necessary to protect you from our country’s enemies. Since our enemies seem to be everywhere these days, your privacy - for as much as it could aid efforts against terrorism - is forfeit.

My thoughts are more the typical liberal line. Privacy is one of the rights that I expect my country to defend. If I forfeit my privacy for security, have I made a fair trade?

A couple of details you’ll need to participate in this thought experiment: I’m of the belief that the 9th amendment entitles Americans to the right to privacy. Some details that Brian and I argue over frequently include whether the 9th amendment can be applied to privacy when the supreme court has never ruled on it in this way. They have acknowledged martial privacy under the 9th amendment, but that’s all. I would say that simply because they haven’t seen a case dealing explicitly with generalized privacy does not void the notion.

This post is spawned by reading this Slashdot article (Why do I do this? I don’t know.) which asks some questions that have me fearful, too: Will a young person who has grown up with the current strictures ever know what privacy had been like before this terrorist-induced hysteria?

An example of privacy lost: Berta has a cold. I went to the drug store to buy some over-the-counter cold medicine. To buy the standard stuff (Pseudoephedrine), you need to sign a form and show ID, because you could be making crystal meth at home. Ignore the inconvenience - Why are they keeping records of this?

My questions to you (please comment!) are these:

  • What credible, time-tested text can I read that supports or refutes my position on privacy?
  • What is your opinion on the state of privacy in America?
  • How much privacy are you willing to dismiss for safety?
  • Can you identify the explicit safety that you obtain for your explicit loss in privacy?