Privacy and Technology

The words "right to privacy" do not appear in the Constitution. But beginning in the 1920s, the US Supreme Court drew upon several of the Amendments to defend what Justice Brandeis called the "right to be left alone."

As the right to privacy evolved, it came to include not just our right to be free from warrantless and unreasonable searches and seizures as stipulated by the Fourth Amendment, but our freedom to make certain decisions about our bodies and our private lives without interference from the government.

Perhaps no other constitutional right has been so challenged by technology and by national security concerns. In a 21st century world of social networking, online commerce, shared electronic medical records, data breaches and identity theft, internet tracking, and digital data up to our eyeballs – a world where companies monitor our purchases, movements, and lifestyle choices and vast quantities of confidential and sensitive information are being stored in databases – it is tempting to see privacy as a quaint and outdated notion.

Yet the ACLU remains certain that sensitive personal information still feels sensitive and personal, and no matter how much information we might share about ourselves online, no one wants the government monitoring them.

Our “right to be left alone” will be obsolete unless we can devise appropriate privacy protections for the digital age and a balance between security and liberty that is both effective and preserves our basic values.

Sign our petition to tell the Massachusetts state legislature to protect your privacy!

Resources, the ACLU of Massachusetts website devoted entirely to privacy and surveillance issues.

When We Are All Suspects: A Backgrounder on Government Surveillance in Massachusetts (PDF)

Sunlight on Surveillance
Our country has a long history of local police, the FBI, and even the CIA spying on American citizens and infiltrating activist groups.

Read more about specific Privacy and Technology topics


Red Light Cameras