Is Big Brother Watching You?

In the age of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube, we see a trend toward people publicizing personal information. Personal web pages, blogs, and social networking are one the rise. Is privacy important anymore when we are living our lives on display on the web? Today, I was reading online at CNN Money:

“The House of Representatives, as expected, approved a controversial cybersecurity bill late Thursday, staring down a veto threat. But the fight to protect the United States from a cataclysmic cyber attack is far from over. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which has been revised several times over the past week, allows the government and private companies to share information with one another with the aim of warding off cyber threats. Companies would be incentivized to voluntarily share information with the government, and the United States could share crucial attack information with companies. Much of that kind of information sharing had previously been banned under existing privacy laws.”

Experts believe that some form of this bill will be passed by the Senate and supported by Obama.

Kesher published an excellent article that relates directly to this issue of privacy law. The author, Elliot Klayman, a Harvard bred lawyer, spent 8 years with a civil liberties law firm, and currently is Chairman of MJTI and Director of its School of Jewish Studies. According to Klayman, Brandeis was progressive in this time, especially as compared to Oliver Wendall Holmes, recognized by some as the greatest jurist of his time. For example, Brandeis, contrary to the consensus on the US Supreme Court at the time, would see surveillance techniques such as listening devices as just as intrusive as physical invasion. In Klayman’s opinion, Brandeis would have extended privacy protection to cyberspace.

Part of the issue is balancing the interest of a person’s privacy against the protection of society. There is a tight rope that can be walked between individual freedom from intrusion and the state’s need for security, requiring a constitutional balancing act between the individual and the state. Brandeis would likely say that any type of intrusion in order to protect a larger government security interest must be narrowly drawn and restricted so as not to unreasonably invade personal freedom. In order for such a bill to be constitutional and avoid an unreasonable intrusion into privacy, it must be targeted narrowly to the interest of governmental security. Under the guise of protecting governmental security, Big Brother can rear his ugly head and engage in snooping on individuals. For a more in depth study of Brandeis’ viewpoint on privacy issues see “The Life of the First Jewish U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis: Exploring “Privacy Issues” and Ancestral Cultic Connections” by Elliot Klayman at http://www.kesherjournal.com/Issue-24/The-Life-of-the-First-Jewish-US-Supreme-Court-Justice-Louis-Brandeis-Exploring-“Privacy-Issues”-and-Ancestral-Cultic-Connections

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