Ever wonder how a person not known obtains critical information once unavailable to the public? Nowadays, the easy access of computers makes it almost impossible for citizens to completely be out of the risk of privacy invasion. Anything we do is being monitored discreetly or publicly by others. Yet, there are different ways in which this issue can be viewed. It is harmful in the way that we do not know exactly what is being monitored by others, nor the way it is being used. Privacy intrusion helps us by monitoring those who may be harmful to others. Privacy invasion can be viewed as both harmful, and yet helpful.
One type of privacy invasion is the placement of surveillance cameras. Cameras are made so small today that one would have to stand less than a foot away to actually see the placement of the camera. In the article, “Nowhere to hide: Lack of Privacy Is the Ultimate Equalizer,” Charles Platt states, “Right now, I can buy a KGB-surplus night scope, a microtransmitter, or a videocamera that’s half the size of a pack of cigarettes” (344).
We can hardly go anywhere without the possibility of a camera watching our every move. This is a good thing in the sense that it gives more security to public places. A thief will think twice about robbing a bank if there is a camera pointed directly at him. Prison riots will become obsolete since the video will tell all who started the riot. Surveillance camera footage can be used as evidence in the court of law.Just as cameras can be useful in the work field, they can also be used to abuse invasion of privacy. In the article, “Privacy and Technology,” Gary T. Marx points out, “A college student secretly video taped sexual encounters with a girlfriend. After breaking up with her, he played the tape for members of his fraternity. She learned of this and was victorious in a civil lawsuit, although no criminal statute had been violated” (325). Cameras are also good for business. There will be fewer shoplifters sneaking away items at the mall or grocery store.
Another type of privacy invasion is the background check of a potential employee. Businesses only want employees who will benefit the business itself. The owners think of employees as a type of investment. So, to make a good investment, the managers are ordered to conduct a background check on prospective applicants. Computers have made it easier to access individual information. In the article “Invasion of Privacy,” Quittner states, “In the old days, information stored in government databases was relatively inaccessible. Now, however, with PCs on every desktop linked to office networks and then to the Internet, data that were once carefully hidden may be only a few keystrokes away” (339). Wanting to make a good investment, businesses are now checking even the medical background of the applicants. The businesses want to make sure that their employees will not become sick. It is not because they actually care, it is because the business will lose money because of the loss of the employee. In the article “Invasion of Privacy,” Quittner states “More than 200 subjects in a case study published last January in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics reported that they had been discriminated against as a result of genetic testing. None of them were actually sick, but DNA analysis suggested that they might become sick one day” (338).
Money-hungry businesses are always on the look out for new ways to obtain information about their customers. This information helps them produce products that suit the customers’ need. For example, if we go to the store, everything we buy is being checked out by a bar code. Using the bar-code companies can keep a record of how many items they’ve sold. So the Americans are unwillingly contributing to a kind of survey. This is minor to some, but there are many people who feel bothered by this for some reason. It is possible that some people think it is none of anybody’s business what they are buying and more importantly for what reason. Every time someone applies for a credit card, the applications ask so many questions that one cannot help but feel that they are being cross-examined.
There is part in some applications that ask for the mother’s maiden last name. This information can be accessible to computer whizzes that no how to hack into credit card companies. In the article, “Nowhere to Hide: Lack of Privacy Is the Ultimate Equalizer” Platt states, “Now that credit ratings, tax figures, purchasing profiles, and medical records are accessible online and federal agencies are ready and willing to seize cars, boats, and homes in tax cases or under the RICO statute, there’s some reason to feel insecure” (344). These individuals can do what they please with the information they can access so liberally.
All in all, privacy invasion is an issue that has two sides to it. As we have seen, the intrusion of privacy can be helpful in our everyday lives. We can be secure about doing everyday activities because of privacy invasion. On the other hand, we have learned that privacy invasion can be harmful. It hurts us by exposing critical information that is easily sought and found. We can bet that there will be continuing arguments on whether privacy invasion is a good or bad thing. We can never find a conclusion because the drawbacks and the benefits are almost the same in abundance.