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Minding the Gap: The Growing Divide Between Privacy and Surveillance Technology

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Master's thesis

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Pervasive mass surveillance is a given in U.S. society. However, whether U.S. citizens sacrifice privacy as a result remains under debate. Does privacy fade away in light of the connected world in which we all live The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Jones did not address whether pervasive mass surveillance by the government constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment, and, thereby, triggering constitutional review. The lack of legal guidance presents challenges for law enforcement investigations, as it can takes years for a court to decide a privacy case and surveillance technology evolves at a far more rapid pace. Given the refusal, or inability, of the courts to answer what constitutional privacy protections are afforded U.S. citizens in light of the growing use of sensor technology to conduct mass surveillance, inclusive of GPS, RFID, and LPR, comprehensive legislative privacy options must be explored. To date, privacy has been left to the individual states, which results in privacy protections based upon geography. Federal privacy legislation is limited, focusing on certain technologies, such as eavesdropping under Title III, or certain privacy issues, such medical record data under HIPAA. Further, very few laws govern the use and dissemination of the PII data that derives not only from governmental surveillance, but also from commercial data collection. A federal data protection act would define the privacy interests protected, rather than using the law to limit the governments specific use of a surveillance technology, which would ensure that the rules of engagement for the government surveillance were clear and held the government accountable to its citizens.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Intelligence

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