The answer to that question is both Yes, and No.
In many ways, we have given up our rights willingly, in others, they have been taken away from us a little at a time.
Our right to privacy has been eroding over the decades. We tend to blame the government regardless of what political party is in charge.
After the terrorist attacks on 9/11 we became deaf and mute as a Nation. The creation of The Patriot Act opened a Pandora's box that enabled the National Security Agency (NSA) to do invasive probes into private lives in a large scale.
The NSA has been the target of much hatred lately by the general population who is, finally, seeing the writing on the wall.
When the Patriot Act was implemented, there were many who screamed foul and were promptly chastised for being unpatriotic, communists, socialist, Hippies, and overall, not worthy of attention.
Those people warned us that, once opened, this can of worms would lead to further violation of our quickly eroding privacy laws.
We did not listen. We were scared. We wanted safety at any cost.
Reactionaries were quick to accept that giving up some of their privacy rights was well worth saving lives. Specially their own.
Thoughtful people persisted that this was a slippery slope and eventually, we would have no right to privacy in anything we did.
Neither one was wrong.
The chasm between safety and security has always been the lack of oversight, restrain, regulations, and legal enforcement.
Let's travel back in time, shall we?
There was a time, not that long ago, when it was illegal for
an employer to pry into our personal lives.
an employer to pry into our personal lives.
They had no right to know marital/relationship status, health issues, our credit score, or to ask personal questions during a job interview. They were restricted (as they should be) to check up on our stated educational qualifications and prior employment.
Today, a potential employer will have access to our credit reports and credit score. In those credit reports, credit card companies state our payment history, prior addresses, people we are associated with based on joint accounts, marital statuses over the years, and a host of other personal identifying information that, frankly, it is no one's business but our own.
We don't blink an eye in accepting these intrusions from a company but there was a time when both employers and employees knew this type of intrusions were grounds for a law suit.
Employers changed the law. We let them.
"Back then" we had a right to privacy.
The so-called government did not breach our trust by enacting these laws out of thin air. This brain child was drafted by groups created by Corporate America, the likes of the American Legislative Exchange Council (A.L.E.C.) and passed into legal rights for the corporations by their money-laundering-minions in Congress.
Their increased rights means less privacy for us.
Those bought-for elected officials are the public faces of the ghosts in the machine. The wheels turn and stop when companies decide they will.
Businesses want to collect data, but want does not equal rights. (Until they create a law making it so)
We have opened wide the gates into our private lives in order to get a job, but we are also complicit in baring naked our private lives when we give up our private information willingly.
Our Own Fault?
It used to be that questions pertaining to medical issues, sex life, annual income, family composition, ethnic and racial background, etc., were not a topic of conversation that one would have with total strangers.
Now, via phone and internet surveys, we answer these questions without giving it a second thought. We don't inquire as to who is conducting the survey, where are they located, and how they use the information.
We no longer think of the consequences. In this case, we have waived any right to privacy. What they do with this information is out of our hands.
Most of us are not even aware that some of these data collection centers are located in prisons. Others are managed by political factions that some of us would find unacceptable.
The vicious cycle of credit card applications, acceptances and rejections, are closely intertwined with all other non-issuing banks.
Turning a Blind Eye
Being pro-life or pro-choice should not be a reason to strip "others" of their rights to privacy. But when women are singled-out and legislation is enacted to curtail their reproductive rights, that, is violation of their privacy.
When governors enact legislation that forces women to have an invasive and unnecessary procedure in order to enact choices made in private, that, is another erosion of our privacy rights.
When someone decides that "stop and frisk" is to be used exclusively on young African-American males, that is another erosion of our right to privacy.
When we become a state that targets people who look Hispanic and demands "papers please", we erode our collective - and equal - right to privacy.
When we don't speak up because it is happening to "other people" - We have no right to expect any sympathy from anyone when we are inconvenienced.
What about all the information we release into the ether of social media? The posts that get retweeted? the Facebook status that are shared time and again?
These things do not disperse upon deletion. If these bits and pieces of our lives are interesting enough, they are alive and well in total stranger's hard drives.
Personally, I am incapable of making a time-line of how many times Facebook has changed (to our detriment), their privacy policies.
We grumble on Facebook about it, but continue posting.
All I know is that the smartest man about social media is the one that barely uses it, its creator; Mark Zuckerberg
Is the government allowed to access my personal data?
The short answer is yes. They are the ones that will always know where we live, the composition of our families, how much we earn, and how old we are.
They send property tax bills to our house.
They provide rescue and relief to disaster areas.
We answer the census data questions.
We file tax forms with the IRS every year.
They issued our birth certificate and social security number.
They will send us social security checks and qualify us for Medicare.
They keep accurate records to pay unemployed workers.
Do we care that they know the phone numbers we have called?
Do we care that Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T use that data daily?
Perhaps what we should be irritated about, is how easily corporations are allowed to intrude into our private lives without our consent.
Drones vs. Google
If they did, It is unlikely we were the targets of this intrusion. Anymore than Google's street car taking unintended photos on their scheduled drives
Somehow, I think a naked picture of us from a drone fly-by will likely remain more private than a map service that can be accessed freely by everyone in the world. Googles "oops!" will live on the internet for ever.
How about Google collecting wi-fi data as their vehicle drives by?
NSA and Personal Responsibility
Personal responsibility requires that we know that everything we post online, no matter how private we think the sites are, is common grounds and will be shared by all.
Personal responsibility requires that we ensure that people charged with governance, are decent human beings working for us, not against us.
Personal responsibility demands that we stop focusing on the fish bowl that is The White House, and take a hard look at our state legislators, our mayors, and our governors.
It is our duty to send to congress people we can can trust to work for us.
When we achieve this, we can then enforce the kind of privacy laws we all have a right to have.
Most Americans don't want the NSA to have more personal information that is absolutely necessary. In order to achieve this goal, it is imperative that we, the people, take control of the government and wrestle the control away from the corporations.
In the end, Corporations are not people and their secrets are always safe. Their privacy is always protected.
Ours? not so much.
Photos: Private or public signpost by Stuart Miles/Free Digital Photos