Personal Injury

Debating the “Mighty Constitutional Opposites”

Take Action!—Debating the Right to Privacy

The privacy debate will only escalate as modern technology introduces increasingly sophisticated surveillance devices to those whose job it is to gather information in the interests of the community. The questions of how to balance the right to privacy with the government’s duty to protect and the press’s freedom to inform the public will continue to be debated by your generation. Here are some ways you can prepare to join the debate about “virtual trespass.”

  • Visit the Web sites of a few large companies, search engines, and your other favorite sites. Print out their privacy policies. Compare the length and the level of difficulty of the language used in the statements. What are your rights as a user of the sites? How easy is it to “opt-out”—to specifically instruct a company not to release any personal information it may collect about you when you visit its Web site? Do you think that any of the policy language is misleading? After you have compared the policies, identify four qualities that you think a good privacy policy should include for the protection of consumers.
  • Most states have laws prohibiting access to patients’ medical records in an effort to protect patients’ privacy. Do some research on the Brady Bill databank. Some people believe that the names of the mentally ill should be included in a databank that gun dealers must check before selling a gun. Others believe that if the names are included that the people named will face discrimination and persecution. What do you think? Might your opinion be different if you or someone in your family had received psychological treatment? Weigh the pros and cons of the databank from the standpoints of public safety advocates and advocates for the mentally ill. What compromise could be made to address the concerns of both sides?
  • Do some research about Passive Alcohol Sensors (PAS), which look like normal flashlights and are used by police officers to detect the presence of alcohol during traffic stops. Some good web-based research sources include the Mothers against Drunk Driving and Drivers Against MADD Methods Web sites. Critics claim that PAS flashlights violate privacy because motorists don’t know they are being tested. Supporters believe that getting drunk drivers off the roads justifies the means. What do you think? Are the results of PAS flashlights admissible in court? What about the results from Breathalyzer tests that are administered after alcohol detection with PAS flashlights? Do PAS flashlights violate privacy and trespass on motorists’ rights? Should increased road safety override motorists rights? Do some legal research to support your position.
  • The California Privacy Protection Act of 1998 creates a civil liability if one person violates another’s privacy for a commercial purpose using new visual or auditory technology. Do you think this law is a good idea? Should it be made a federal law?

Student Central | Students in Action | Debating the "Mighty Constitutional Opposites"
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