Increase in technology has affected majority of people’s privacy. People no longer have the right to privacy as state agencies together with private organization have had access to most people’s personal information. Through use of ‘cookies’, people have been able to access online personal information something that had prompted legislation of laws aimed at enhancing and protecting individual privacy both from intrusion from the state and private companies. This paper is going to look into the rights of citizens of Florida concerning privacy as a result of increase in access to private information through the use of technology and possible measures that can be put in place to safeguard the citizens against exploitation.
The citizens of Florida are increasingly expressing concern over the need to get more protection from the government concerning their privacy. Majority of Americans believe that their right to privacy and personal information has been lost and that there is need for additional laws that will guarantee them protection. This is because of the increased technology that has made it cheap and easy to monitor individual information that was once considered private. Florida as a state has provided for an express right of privacy to its citizens through their constitution which states in article 1 section 23 that: every individual has a right to personal privacy and is free from government interference into his/her personal life except as otherwise stated there in. It also states that the section above should not be used to deny citizens their right to access public records together with meetings as catered for in the law (Donohue, 2006).
The provision guarantees the freedom of the press, speech and constitutional together with legal requirements about access to public records and meetings. This section has guarded citizens against intrusion from the government in areas concerning private decision-making and exposure of personal information. With the increase in technology, protection of private information is becoming more and more important among citizens. As technology advances, an individual’s right to privacy and control of personal information should not dissolve just because this information could be accessed by the public in a given form. Therefore it is important to enact laws that will ensure protection of private information. Laws need to be amended for example, the above law that only protects citizens against intrusion from the government and does cater for interference from outside sources such as private organizations and companies (Froomkin, 2000).
Impact of technology on privacy.
According to Eko (2000), increase in technology has enabled other people to be able to interfere with almost every aspect of our lives. People should not only guard themselves against interference from the government but also interference from other private agencies that are out to make profit through the use of private information. Private information is bound to be invaded without an individual’s knowledge whenever transactions such as withdrawal of money from an automated teller machine, doing shopping in a store, purchasing of tickets, surfing on the internet, making telephone calls because of an electronic record that is created. This information is stored in online data storage banks hence it can be accessed and retrieved (Penney, 2007).
For example, internet providers are able to monitor web pages that are accessed by internet users through the use of “cookies” and “mouse droppings”. They both permit the internet site to recognize the person accessing it through information that is stored in the visitor’s hard drive. Through the process of data matching, information about purchases made and activities involved in by an individual, can be compiled to come up with an individual’s profile. This profile could include your personal tastes, lifestyle and also pattern of buying. The information can then be digitized and processed for sell to commercial agencies that will in return target you for purposes of marketing (Strahilevitz, 2005).
Records such as credit files, health and driving records, employment details, vehicle registrations, car rentals, social security details, purchases and subscriptions can be easily accessed. Little restrictions have been put to regulate access to such information making it easier for anybody interested to access them. Companies that are able to provide personal information about people have also come up with the ability to provide most if not all information about an individual ranging from bankruptcy records to residential addresses of people.
The ways in which information can be compiled are increasing with proposals of smart cards that will be fitted with micro chips that will contain an individual’s health history together with other data that could be useful in emergency cases. In some places, micro-chips that contain details that could help identify owners of pets have been implanted on the pets with other chips being experimented on human beings.
Other appliances such as a “smart meter” are able to track the type of machines that an individual uses and how frequent they are used. The range of gadgets used in communication such as cell phones and other gadgets as laptops further increase avenues through which individual privacy can be invaded. Although technology has improved on the quality of life and helped ease the pain of having to look for particular information over a long time through technologies like data matching, it can also be intrusive (Penney, 2007). Basically, protection from secondary access to personal information should be regulated. Information collected by an agency for use in a particular area should only be used for the purposes that it was intended and should not by any means be transferred to any other party without permission from the individual concerned.
Secondary use of an individual’s information brings with it other risks such as transfer of wrong information. This is because of the high level of error in information contained in big information data bases which is estimated to be 20-30%. This has a big negative impact because some decisions that are made by employers and other companies such as insurance companies, consider this information before making conclusions. It may also bring about inequalities among individuals in an event of divorce. This is because of the policies in some states such as Florida where employment records of individuals employed by the state are public. This will allow access of information unequally if one of the couple is privately employed who will be able to readily access important personal information about the other (Strahilevitz, 2005).
Because of the wide range of factors that can interfere with an individual’s privacy, privacy inclusions in the law have evolved over time to include three different meanings depending on the privacy category in question. There is a central constitutional right that protects individuals against interference from the government, a state right that protects individuals from both government and private interference and a tort law that that provides a platform to take a tort action in the event of privacy invasion (Simmons, 2007).
Federal constitutional right to privacy
Although there is a direct lack of personal space in the federal bill, there are some limited rights in it. There are three types of interests that it puts into consideration: the individual decisional autonomy on intimate matters, protection of an individual’s interest against exposure of matters considered personal and security from unwarranted intrusion and surveillance by the government (Rubenfeld, 2008). In personal autonomy matters, the right to solitude is limited to a number of rights that involve areas that require individual choice like: marriage, family relationships, contraception, upkeep and children education and also procreation. The autonomy rights can only be overruled by the state only when there is a compelling interest.
Florida constitution’s right to privacy
Because of the limitation in the right to privacy in the central constitution, some states including Florida decided to introduce clear privacy rights in state constitutions to guarantee additional protection to their citizens. The government is not supposed to intrude into an individual’s personal life unless it is necessary as provided for in section 23 of the constitution. The section acknowledges that each individual has a right to privacy and if the government intrudes, it should be able to justify its interests in that they should be compelling and that minimum intrusive means should be used in achieving this objective (Taslitz, 2002).
Privacy as a Basis for Tort Action
Many states have different non-constitutional methods of protecting privacy intrusion by commercial entities and individuals. There are four different types of privacy intrusion actions that are put into consideration. They include: the inappropriate use of an individual’s name or resemblance, physical or electronic intrusion into a person’s private quarters, public revelation of private details and publication of facts that can place an individual in the false light before the public. A bill that was aimed at giving access of private firms to government information which the companies could use in commercial production was proposed but was never passed. It intended to form an information council that could have changed public access to electronically formatted information in which it could require payment of fees before one could have access to it depending on the market rates. This could have commercialized public information (Rubenfeld, 2008).
According to Simmons (2007), information collected and used by the government should be available to the public. The government should also be held accountable and should ensure that information obtained from the public is not used for any secondary or commercial purpose. Although international together with federal laws could soon recognize technological privacy concerns: it is the responsibility of Florida as a state to come up with policies that could protect its citizens against privacy intrusion. Adequate constitutional amendments should be done to strengthen the existing laws as some could be having loopholes that could be used to exploit citizens.
Citizens also should understand that the government alone cannot be able to offer privacy protection that they require. They should also ensure that they put appropriate measures in place that could help protect their privacy. This can be done through the use of software that could prevent children from giving out personal and family information to their internet groups and also websites. Use of tamperproof passwords in online transactions should be encouraged and if possible, transfer of sensitive information over the internet avoided.
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