Keeping an Eye Out for Public Surveillance: What Are My Privacy Rights?

by Ladyblogger on October 3, 2013

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Individual rights to privacy have been plastered all over the news as of late due to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) was gathering metadata from phone companies like Verizon and online based businesses like Yahoo and Facebook. Many people are left wondering how these seeming types of invasion of personal privacy can be legal, and with good cause. Because of the almost never-ending gray areas of the law, it’s vital for every U.S. citizen to understand when they’re being watched and whether or not it’s legal. 

Types of SurveillanceWith the NSA fiasco still fresh in everyone’s mind, many individuals only think of phone surveillance, and this is especially true since most people were focused on the revelation that Verizon was handing over phone records to the government. So it’s imperative that people seek counsel from attorneys such as New York’s Bottar Leone in order to gain a clear understanding of their rights. With that said, there are various types of surveillance that can take place.

Telephone: Telephone surveillance was at the center of the NSA controversy. The government has said that they only gather data on phone calls, such as numbers dialed and talk time, as opposed to actually recording them.

Computer: Computer surveillance is accomplished through various techniques of monitoring a person’s activities on computer networks and the Internet. Since Facebook was involved in the NSA surveillance issue, it’s obvious that even social media isn’t safe.

Cameras: Cameras can be seen in businesses and even on the streets. Surveillance cameras aren’t legal in all places, but they are in many. Britain actually has one surveillance camera for every 14 citizens.

Satellite: Satellite technology has become insanely advanced. Just looking at Google Earth proves this. Scarily enough, military satellites can see even more in-depth images from space.

A Person’s Legal Rights

Unfortunately, the passing of the Patriot Act during President George W. Bush’s term gave the government far-reaching power when it comes to surveillance in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. In fact, the government says that a 2009 plot to bomb the New York City subway was thwarted through the use of NSA phone records. Regardless of whether these invasions of privacy seem fair or not, they are law, but not all instances of surveillance are legal.

One big “no-no” when it comes to video surveillance is setting up cameras in places where people expect privacy. In fact, cameras cannot be set up in or near dressing rooms, locker rooms, bathrooms, hotel rooms or anywhere else where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. In addition, if someone other than the government spies on a person through their phone records, social media account or a host of other ways, they may face criminal prosecution. In addition, a person may be able to recover financial compensation if they seek out legal help after having their privacy rights violated.

Judicial Review

Courts have often found in favor of victims of personal surveillance. In one case in Iowa, for instance, a judge found that a company violated their employees’ right to privacy by having a surveillance camera in the bathroom. There’s a possibility that the camera wasn’t even in use, but its presence alone was enough for the court to find in the employees’ favor.

It’s also been reported that the Supreme Court has been asked to take up the case of NSA phone records. To this date, the High Court has not done so. In fact, people really shouldn’t get their hopes up in this case. Chief Justice Roberts is actually the judge who appoints lower judges to the secret court which grants government approval for electronic surveillance, so it’s not likely that this type of power will be relinquished.

There’s no getting around it: surveillance is a necessary part of the modern world. When done, however, certain laws must be followed to ensure that no innocent citizen’s privacy rights are being violated. Courts have consistently stuck up for those victimized by invasion of privacy, so anyone who suspects that they may be a victim should contact an attorney immediately. According to Bottar Leone, one should find an attorney that is especially experiencecd and focused in this practice area because these “cases are best prosecuted by a lawyer that knows a lot about a little . . .” While it’s not likely that an individual will be facing off against the government, satisfaction can still be had from stopping immoral and illegal surveillance.

An advocate for individual privacy, Will Powell frequently uses his writing talent to blog about legal matters.  He has found that Bottar Leone is an excellent resource for individuals who are in need of legal counsel.

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