Fourth Amendment

The top story in the news now is all about the National Security Agency (NSA) and its program for citizen snooping, PRISM. Politicians, pundits and newscasters are in seventh heaven because of the opportunity to pontificate, masturbate and investigate – in the same order.

The mariner used to live in Maryland and has several friends who work at NSA. Of course, they never told him anything but knowing them personally, and knowing their talents, they do not know about PRISM any more than we do. NSA does not tell them a whole lot either. This is not to say the mariner’s friends are not important – in fact, they have unique, admirable skills.

The mariner understands both sides of the issue as the politicians present it; he understands that this legislation and its predecessor legislation have been in place for a couple of decades; he understands the motivation to protect the United States.

None of this bothers him because Google is on his computer. Google knows when he sneezes and it advertises tissues. Google already reads all his email and knows every website he visits. Every agora from the supermarket to tracks the mariner’s purchases. Every cell phone company saves his calls but even more, knows where he is at any time with pinpoint accuracy – even if he can’t get a half bar signal. The mariner receives junk email all the time from retailers who only could have obtained his name from banks, professional list makers, government databases and other retailers. Criminal types can piece together his Social Security number just by cross-checking a few databases.

PRISM? No big deal. Just throw it on the pile of privacy violators that already know more about the mariner than he does.

What the mariner does not comprehend about this issue is why the Fourth Amendment does not apply to the private sector in the same way as it applies to government. If a citizen wiretaps a neighbor’s telephone, he can be arrested. If a police officer comes to your door, the officer cannot come in without a warrant in hand. However, Google and the mariner’s cable service can watch him sleep in front of the television if the television has interactive software for gaming. Never play ping-pong in your underwear!

On one hand, gun owners are protected by the Second Amendment but on the other hand are not protected by the Fourth Amendment.

Isn’t it logical that if the Bill of Rights is in place to protect the citizens, then everyone doing business in the United States is obligated as well?

What further confuses the mariner is that the government not only collects all this information but once it has it, it hands it to anyone who asks. A flagrant example is the Department of Motor Vehicles, and at the Federal level, the Freedom of Information Act. No doubt, farmer information is spread around, too. The mariner used to own a farm and somehow everyone seemed to know what was going on in every inch of the farm.

Every contract, whether a bank loan, a software agreement, a telephone contract, an insurance policy or a retailer, has a little clause that says they can give or sell your information to just about anyone they want to.

It won’t be long before Google knows that I sneezed and puts a box of tissues in my supermarket order that I ordered online.

PRISM? Small potatoes. The NSA still does not know as much about the mariner as Google does.

Ancient Mariner

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