Big Brother is Watching You
The Supreme Court case involving the use of a GPS tracking device by federal and local law enforcement in monitoring a suspected drug dealer without a warrant, has generated quite a bit of debate from accredited news agencies, columnists, activists, politicians, and even everyday bloggers. The United States vs. Antoine Jones case was intensely discussed and debated between attorneys and Court Justices on November 8th in Washington, D.C.
During the hour-long deliberation, the “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s influential novel, 1984, was referenced six times.
Comparisons of 1984 to U.S. vs. Jones Case
The Justices pondered a world in which satellites can zero in on an individual’s house; where cameras can record the faces of individuals at a crowded intersection; and where individuals can instantly announce their every movement to the world on the Internet and social media sites such as Facebook. And they expressed their concerns about the government placing tracking devices in overcoats or on license plates to monitor the precise location and movements of individuals at all times.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked Deputy Solicitor General, Michael Dreeben, who is representing the government, “How do we deal with this? Do we just say, ‘Well, nothing is changed,’ so that all the information that people expose to the public is fair game?” Essentially, the court is attempting to apply the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizures, with the use of GPS technology.
Dreeben responded by saying that the court had already settled the greater question: “What a person seeks to preserve as private in the enclave of his own home or in a private letter or inside of his vehicle when he is traveling is a subject of Fourth Amendment protection.” He added: “But what he reveals to the world, such as his movements in a car on a public roadway, is not.”
The references to Orwell’s fictitious novel, were made as a point of comparison in the government’s use of GPS technology to watch Jones’ every step. The fear is that the unwarranted and unrestricted use of technology could lead the government to abuse its power. In addressing this issue, Dreeben said the court should hold those concerns for a case in which there was an abuse. “This case does not involve universal surveillance of every member of this court or every member of the society,” he said. “It involves limited surveillance of somebody who was suspected of drug activity.”
The case is still in process, and a decision is expected to be made by the end of July. In the meantime, the discussions and debates on whether it’s right or wrong to allow the government to monitor the public, will go on. However, at the end of the day, law enforcement officers were able to utilize the GPS tracking technology in order to compile enough evidence to convict a person committing a very dangerous crime.
The question is will the government prevail and continue to slowly creep into the private lives of its citizens. The U.S. has always prided itself on being a country where its citizens are free from unwarranted surveillance – unlike other non-democratic countries. We appear to be headed to a system that will infiltrate the lives of everyday citizens.
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