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Know Your Rights to Privacy

We see all kinds of legal cases nowadays and it’s hard to make a solid distinction and decide where our rights begin and where they end. Does your employer have the right to search your desk or add you as a friend on Facebook? Can the police budge into your home to search for evidence? Do you know your rights or you blindly believe in authority? It’s not just in the movies, you do have the right to remain silent in the real life too.

Your Right to Privacy According to the US Constitution

The First Amendment

The first amendment states Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. This means that the US constitution allows everyone who is a US citizen to have the freedom to express their beliefs and religion, or keep them a secret if they prefer. It makes every religion equal and there is not an official or preferred religion within the United States. The 1st amendment forbids the government to interfere with anyone’s practice of religion and it allows everyone to speak their beliefs audibly, but it will prohibit any speech that promotes violence or causes estrangement of the established peace. The right to protest mentioned is associated only with social assembly to serve the purposes of the 1st amendment. Group gatherings which promote any type of illegal activities or conducts are not associated with this amendment. This amendment guarantees that the US citizens can always assemble, seek change and start a petition to ask the government to provide relief from a court or governmental action they think it’s wrong.

The Third Amendment

The third amendment also protects the right to privacy and it states that: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. This amendment disallows any member of the police, army, special forces or any other type of government agent to enter your home during times of war, as well as times of peace. Without your consent and permission, they have no right to reside in your home.

The Fourth Amendment

The fourth amendment is as follows: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

With the help of this amendment, you have the right to protect your privacy by prohibiting any government agency to search you or your house or your possessions without a warrant. In the warrant, the purpose for the search have to be included, as well as your implication (or probable cause) in the crime. The Oat of affirmation means that the police officer had to make an oath to the judge that the evidence will be found in your possession. This means that if they are looking a stolen car, they are not allowed to search your entire home, pockets or office, only your garage or other place where you might stack the stolen belongings. If something else is found during the search, but it’s not listed in the warrant, the item can’t be used against you in court. You have a right to resist the search and order the officers to wait for your lawyer to arrive at the scene.

The Illusion of Internet Privacy

There are several levels of Internet privacy. If you are only a casual Facebook user, then your privacy is somewhat protected. You can make your entire profile private, stop adding or accepting strangers as friends and delete everyone you don’t really know in your real life. However, even if you do that, every photo, event or status you ever post is still visible to the rest of the world. When someone from your friends likes it or comments on some of your posts, all their friends can see your posts too. Just as you can see strangers’ posts in the news feed when some of your friends comment on them, they can see your posts too. For now, there is no way to avoid this and we should all just get used to it. If you go deeper, the problem is even bigger. Every time you open your favorite browser, your favorite site or social network, all your activities are being monitored. Of course, if you are not a threat to your country, the FBI doesn't have a guy just for you, sitting in front of the computer, monitoring all your online presence, but everything you do, goes in the metadata. The metadata is a place that collects all of your online history from the minute you set up your Internet connection.

A thematic map of internet censorship.

Some people think that opening up an incognito window will save their privacy. Incognito windows are designed for safe Internet searches that only protect your browser history. What you did from the incognito window, which videos you’ve watched and what you read can still be tracked back to your IP address, but it will not be saved in your browser history. If you have children for example and you have to search something online that you don’t want them to ever find out, incognito windows are perfect for that kind of protection. Your IP address will still leave a footprint on every site you visit. This address is like your mailing address at home, but for your computer. Casual users, like your Facebook friends, chat room pen pals and email correspondences can’t see your IP address. If you are under government surveillance at the time of your browsing, your IP address can be revealed to police officials, agents or other security services. Otherwise, it will be almost impossible to trace your location with your IP address. The websites you visit can see your IP address, but they don’t have the right to use it or abuse it, only to monitor your presence on their site. They do this to find out which your personal preferences are, what you are doing on their site, how much time you spent there and sometimes, companies are collecting data from IP address to identify the users’ advertising purposes. For the same purpose, some search engines, like Google, are also collecting your personal likes and online activities. According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act reading private electronic information is illegal, but just like every other law, this one suffers from exceptions.

Online Anonymity

You don't need to be involved in any type of criminal activity to want your online privacy. Hackers, debt collectors, stalkers, scammers and identity thieves can all benefit from tracing your IP address. At the present time, the most successful way to hide your online presence is with a proxy server. A proxy server is an application or a computer system that works as a distributor of data between the Internet and your computer. Most computers have a transparent proxy setting, which means that their IP address is still visible to many servers when the user browses the Internet. You can search your favorite engine for anonymous proxy server, but keep in mind that using a proxy server without the permission of the proxy’s owners may not be legal in many countries. Basically, these anonymous proxies hide the users’ IP address, so that they can search the World Wide Web without leaving any digital footprint behind. That way you can view content on the Internet that is restricted in your geographical area because the site’s server can’t trace the IP address to your country. Distorting proxies change your IP address and leave the incorrect one to the server when you are browsing. And at last, high anonymity proxies are considered to provide the safest online privacy. If you decide to use any type of anonymity proxy server, make sure to use one of trusted integrity. Otherwise, not only that you will fall victim to a false sense of security, but your logins, passwords and Internet activities may be recorded by the proxy.

TOR

A project designed to protect its user’s online activities is “The Onion Router” or TOR. Initially, it was developed for the government purposes of the US Navy, to protect their communications. Today, many police officers, activists and people of other profiles use this service to share information, but still be able to protect their privacy on the Internet network. With TOR, you can publish websites without revealing your true location. If you are a journalist, you can share sensitive information without disclosing your identity. This system will protect your location and traffic by encryption and bouncing the signals you send through multiple routers until it gets to its final destination, where every router remembers only the last few IP addresses. But a few months ago, TOR was proven to be not so safe after all. The FBI hacked the security protocol, allegedly to investigate a child pornography source. It was then discovered that 60 percent of the TOR budget comes from the federal government, 40 percent of that which came from the Department of Defense. The NSA has decryption codes that can reveal all communications made through TOR within a few hours, which cost Americans around 1 billion dollars. This made the unbreakable “onion” encrypted system of TOR, breakable after all, exposing the most popular TOR addresses, like control and command centers for botnets, bitcoin mining, adult content sites, and the Silk Road marketplace. While waiting for some one to tell you that there is a safe way to browse the Internet, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that there is no such way yourself. The appetite for collecting information is now stronger than ever. There is no way to protect your privacy on the Internet, so if you want to buy something without the government knowing, go to the mall and bring cash. If you have something important to share do it in person, if not, the Internet “shadows” will lock it forever in their databases.

Your Right to Privacy at the Workplace

Regardless of how strict your company is on email policies, the golden rules of manners always apply for all your email correspondences. The employer has the right to check and monitor your email, only for business or management purposes. Some managers even install the Keylogger software, which saves not only your send emails, but your drafts too. Even without the software, every email received or sent through the company server can be monitored and traced back to the sender, so keep your communications refined and professional. When phone calls are monitored, the federal law states that the surveillance should stop when the employers realize that the call is of personal nature. But all your business calls are probably monitored. More than 50 percent of all companies use video surveillance in their offices. However, cameras in changing rooms and toilets are not allowed and prohibited by law. Some employers ask their staff to wear wiggle monitors, to check how much they move throughout their day and how much time they actually work behind their desks. Nowadays, employers have gone too far and forgot that their personnel have human rights after all. Medical exams, psychological screening, drug tests and lie detector tests can all be part of your modern employment. They are not all always legal, so if some of these testing procedures seem unreasonable or you are not comfortable with them; make sure you ask your employer if they are work related. And at last, your company can’t ask you which religion you practice, whether or not you are married and have children and what is your race. Those are private issues that have nothing to do with your job, promotion and overall employment.

References

1. Does the Constitution protect the right of privacy? http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/rightofprivacy.html

2. Your Right to Privacy - ACLU https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/your-right-privacy

3. Implied Privacy Rights in the Constitution http://www.shmoop.com/right-to-privacy/implied-privacy-rights-constitution.html

4. Right to Privacy: Constitutional Rights & Privacy Laws http://www.livescience.com/37398-right-to-privacy.html

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