Guest Column

July 14, 2013

What is more important, privacy or security?

The tradeoff between privacy and security is once again making headlines.

In case you’ve been hibernating, allow me to summarize this story, which pits our personal privacy — nay, our very freedom — against the security needs of the government of the United States of America.

The way I understand the situation is that all of this National Security Agency phone tapping and Internet snooping started with the Bush administration shortly after 9/11 and has continued to the present Obama administration.

The government claims that it is not an infringement of your Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable search” because it does not use the use the actual data (your phone conversations and internet communications); instead it captures just the “metadata.”

What, you may ask, is “metadata”? It’s data that describes the original data or information about the information in the call or email and might better be called “meta-information.”

It usually includes the date and time the information was transmitted or, if it was a phone call, the calling number and the number you called.

So although, your phone conversation or email or visit to that racy website is accessible to the government computers, they are not examined unless a “national security” flag is raised.

And what, you may continue to ask, is a “national security” flag? An example of that might be if the phone number or email address matched the phone number of someone on a terrorist list.

Then and only then, according to the government, do the wheels of justice engage. The NSA contacts a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court for permission to access the actual data (in our example, the audio of the phone call) to follow up this lead and begin an investigation. However, critics of the Surveillance Act Court claim that it is merely a “rubber stamp” and too easily grants requests to snoop.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Guest Column
  • clute_cropped.jpg Finding accountability, healing

    Today, I focus on the vast majority of cases that do not go to trial but end in a guilty plea, writes former District Attorney and City Judge Penny Clute.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • krieg_felicia_mug.jpg Affordable doesn't mean low quality

    Drugstore products often perform just as well as their high-end counterparts, Felicia Krieg writes.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Opportunity to repair infrastructure missed

    A vibrant economy requires roads, bridges, dams and other assets that are in good condition, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • ken_wibecan.jpg Remembering the Sixties

    Each Memorial Day and Labor Day in the early 1960s, about a dozen of us city-dwellers drove to Lake George, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg The right to be forgotten?

    Europe taking first steps toward securing privacy with Google and Facebook, writes columnist Stu Denenberg.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Ethical consumerism in vogue

    However, making purchasing choices that can help save the planet aren't always that simple, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg U.S. lacking leadership

    Inspiration is hard to come by as society struggles to fulfill the traditional American dream, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for quality, safety, animal welfare

    June Dairy Month is a good time to appreciate all the effort that goes into producing the very best in dairy products, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Libraries still relevant

    In the digital age, it takes innovation and creativity to assure libraries stay a vital part of the community, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Trees at risk from pests

    The Emerald Ash Borer is a major threat to ash trees locally and across North America, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo