Privacy in Technology

By: Kayley Ross


Dear Reader:

I chose the issue of privacy as my topic for several reasons. The first of which was when I was filling out an online application for a scholarship, this included information like my name, address, telephone number, etcetera. Now, I will let you know that over the past few months I have been filling out countless of these applications that are asking for similar information. So as I begin to fill out the form, I quickly notice that majority of my information has already been filled out. All of it was right there in front of me before I could even think to type in any of this. At first I thought to myself, hey that’s kind of nice; I didn’t have to waste so much time typing out all of my information. But then I realized the real, scary truth: my computer has stored my information. This led me to think of all of the different ways that my laptop could use this information. It could store it, who knows where, or send it to several different locations that I didn’t approve of. If someone with the wrong intensions got hold of the information, terrible things could happen. So, I did some research on it and what I found was insanely shocking to me. I learned that the government can trace, listen, and record all of my phone calls. Iphones can now recognize where your house is located, as well as your place of work and even a friend’s house. It seems simple and sort of cool and neat at first, that your phone recognizes where you are during the day. But where is all of that gathered information held and what is its purpose? These are questions that I want to find the answers to in my research.

As I continued to choose a topic, I quickly began to realize how much technology surrounds us and how we cannot function without it. It is odd to think of how we cannot go anywhere without our cell phones, which holds all of our photographs and contacts. We put pass codes on our phones, yet feel free to put all of our personal information on social media, for example, facebook. We let others follow us on social media to boost our popularity, without even seeing the new follower in person. We have location settings on our phones so that when we post anything to social media, it lets our viewers know exactly where we were when we posted it. This seems like a fun thought, knowing where all of your friends are at the time. But the so called “followers” that you have may use that technology to find out where you are and to stalk you. This may appear to be a harmless and silly thought that would “never happen to me,” but when all is said and done, has happened to hundreds of people all the time. News reports have let Americans know about the issue of the government recording our phone calls as well as emails, and having the power to listen to them. This national issue will be the main topic of my research.

So where are we going in the technology world? Why are we letting our whole lives be laid out on a screen for anyone to access? Why would anybody be comfortable or okay with that? What can we do to stop or fix the problem? These are only a few of the questions that I plan to answer in my research of privacy in technology.

Research Paper

Kayley Ross

Mrs. Diana Grubbs

English IV Accelerated

5 December 2014

Privacy in Technology

Today in America, nearly everyone uses their phones constantly. We carry around small pieces of technology with us everywhere. Our phones are always on us, either in our back pocket, in purses, or even in our ear. We depend on technology and feel lost or alone if we are not within an arm’s reach of it. But could this habit lead to something else with significant consequences?

Computers are currently used in many facets of our lives and have brought about several improvements and benefits (“Social implications…” 1). Internet access has allowed millions of people to gain instant information; however, some of the access to information must be handled (“Social implications…” 1). Personal privacy has been lost through simple access to private data (“Social implications…” 2). Americans should not have to decide whether to use new technology or keep personal information private (“Internet Privacy “1). For example, a man named Darren Odden, a 43-year-old software engineer, was stunned to find that photos of his 16-month-old son began showing up on public Google searches (Dwoskin 1). The reason behind this? He unintentionally made a Facebook setting public (Dwoskin 2). Technology has become so compressed that video cameras can be hidden in a smoke detector (Personal 1). If one was in a large city, he or she could assume to be filmed by over 300 closed circuit television cameras that belong to 30 different networks (“Personal Information…” 1). Web sites can track where, when and for how long we go to a place (“Personal Information…” 1). Whenever our smartphones are on, a network knows precisely where we are (“Personal Information…” 2). Although we want to feel safe, we do not want our actions to be recorded and play over and over again (“Personal Information…” 2). On the plus side, there are several simple ways to hide your information from actual hijackers, although it is not from the government.

In a world full of technology our fancy smartphones can track where we are at any given time of day, and social media has learned almost every detail of our lives (Dwoskin 1). Every click, scroll, login and swipe all share an insane amount of growing data (Dwoskin 1). The frightening thing about this is that U.S. intelligence agencies are on the race to collect all of this data (Dwoskin 1). Outdated privacy laws and a growing surveillance apparatus let the government monitor us like never before (“Internet Privacy” 1). Finally, after years of an internet phase, Americans are getting tired of the consequences of using technology (Dwoskin 1). According to the Pew Research Center, half of Americans are troubled about the vast amount of private data on the Internet (Dwoskin 1). More than just our privacy is threatened when everything we say and do and everywhere we go are up for grabs (“Internet Privacy” 1).

This action by the government to record and keep all of our data began after the 9/11 terrorists attacks in 2001 (Bulzomi 1). When it was found that Khalid al-Mihdhar, one of the 9/11 hijackers, made a phone call to an Al Qaida safe house in Yemen from San Diego (“President Barack…” 7). National Security Agency noticed the call, but could not recognize that it was coming from someone inside the United States (“President Barack…” 7). After this event took place, the program was intended to plot the communications of terrorists, as quickly as possible and could be extremely valuable in the case of an emergency (“President Barack…”7). As an example, if a bomb goes off in an American city, law enforcement speeds to find out if there are telephone connections to the attack (“President Barack…”8). George W. Bush, president at the time, secretly gave the government warrantless admittance to Americans’ private conversations (Press 2). This would allow the NSA to access all bank transactions, emails, phone calls, websites, video chats, and more (Press 2). The Bush administration named it the “Terrorists Surveillance Program” and claimed that it would keep the United States safe (Press 3).

According to panel of three judges, a person’s privacy rights become relevant when the government collects records or when an analyst evaluates the material (Nakashima 1). U.S District Judge Richard J. Leon says that the program “almost certainly” violates the Fourth Amendment (Nakashima 1). The Forth Amendment guarantees that Americans are to be free from unreasonable searches (Nakashima 2). If lawmakers fail to act immediately, Congress will be required to report the issue (Nakashima 1). The underlying law that the government uses to defend the program expired in June of 2014 (Nakashima 1). Under that law, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the NSA retrieves the call logs of millions Americans every day (Nakashima 1). That includes the call length and time, numbers dialed, but not the content of the call (Nakashima 2). A court order reviewed the Patriot Act and found that it does not violate the Fourth Amendment as long as there is a significant need, as in finding the source of terrorists attacks (Bulzomi 4). Companies and the government collecting information are threatening our freedoms (“Internet Privacy” 1). H. Thomas Byron III, an attorney with the Justice Department’s civil division, says that boundaries that have been added by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court make the incursion of American’s privacy rational (Nakashima 2). Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, discusses that the government’s stand is not adequate (Nakashima 2). They collect the data because their protocols keep people safe (Nakashima 2). This means that they could use that same excuse to record every phone call, all mail, put video cameras in every room and claim that it would not matter because they have rules that state they can (Nakashima 2). Paul Smith, an attorney for the Center for National Security Studies, argues that the NSA program violates Section 215 (Nakashima 2).

According to a recent interview with President Obama this past year, he explains the reasoning behind why the government is doing this. Obama states that the government is not abusing this authority so that they can listen to our private phone calls or even read our e-mails (“President Barack…” 4). He acknowledges that the people who work for the agency know how we feel, they have children on social media, just like we do, and they understand how the world has come to be a place where all of our movement can be tracked just on our phones (“President Barack…” 6). The President states that the program does not take in the subject of the calls or who is making the call (“President Barack…” 7). It only gives a record of the phone numbers and the length in time, of the calls (“President Barack…” 7). The data collected can be questioned if there is suspicion that the number is involved in a terrorist organization (“President Barack…” 7). The NSA does not observe an average American’s phone records, they simply merge the phone records into a database then the government can question if they have a specific lead (“President Barack…” 8). Obama states that they “will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization, instead of the current three” (“President Barack…” 8). They only use our e-mails and phone calls for a sincere national security purpose, not to just review an ordinary person (“President Barack…” 9). The best part is that while Obama was still in the run for presidency, he stated that this issue forced citizens to choose between liberty and security (Press 3). He continues to say that he would provide alternate ways to take out terrorists without discouraging the Constitution and America’s freedom (Press 3). Obama then contradicts himself in saying, after he won the race for presidency, that “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience” (Press 6).

The debate continues as Americans wonder if their watched and tracked life actually benefits the country. Although Obama claims that this gained information can help to track any terrorist organizations within the country, the government could easily abuse this system. They could plainly eavesdrop on any conversation and simply state that they needed to for our safety, which has been done before. Although our conversations may be something as insignificant as what we are having for dinner, Americans do not want their chats to be listened to without permission. No matter how safe the government might claim Americans are because of their rights, all of them should have the right to privacy and peace within their personal lives.

Works Cited for Research Paper


Bulzomi, J, Michael.. “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Before and after the USA PATRIOT Act.” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. 01 Jun. 2003: 25. eLibrary. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

Dwoskin, Elizabeth. “People Battle to Regain Online Privacy; Internet Useres Tap Tech Tools That Protect Them From Prying Eyes.” Wall Street Journal (Online). 23 Mar. 2014: n/a. eLibrary. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

"Internet Privacy." American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.

Nakashima, Ellen., Martin, Victoria St. “Privacy of phone records debated.” Washington Post. 05 Nov. 2014: A2. eLibrary. Web. 06 Nov 2014.

“Personal Information and Surveillance.” Hutchinson Encyclopedia. 2011. eLibrary. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

“PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA DELIVERS REMARKS ON GORVENMENT SURVEILLANCE PROGRAMS.” Political Transcript Wire. 17 Jan. 2014: n/a. eLibrary. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

Press, The Associated. “Secret to Prism program: Even bigger data seizure.” Gainesville Sun. 15 Jun. 2013: n/a. eLibrary. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

“Social implications of computers.” Hutchinson Encyclopedia. 2011. eLibrary. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.


If you don’t want to die

You give us the right to spy on you

We must have access to your financial records

Cameras will watch your every move

Even from the toilet

Don’t think of it as Big Brother keeping tabs on you

But as Big Brother protecting you

Profiling is a must

To prevent another tragedy

If you’re young and Middle Eastern

You are a suspect in our investigations

We’ll monitor all your communications

Read your email and instant messages

We know who you’re friends are

What you ate for lunch

We know everything about you

How you ask?

We know, because we’re the government

We know everything

All we ask is that you give up some unnecessary freedoms

So you can remain safe and sound

Protect you from the mad men

Who want to make you dead

Just sign this paper

The deal is sealed

Be a hero, be patriotic

Support the Patriot Act!

-The Mystic Poet

Persuasive Essay

The federal government should not have the right to listen or record Americans’ phone calls and emails. Although most citizens do not have any information that they would not mind having people listen to or look at, the thought of having someone else listen to their conversation makes them uncomfortable. For example, one may be calling a grandmother to update her on important life events. This information is okay for others to hear, yet the speaker most likely would not want a stranger to be eavesdropping on the conversation. Americans should not have to fear an invasion of privacy.

Supposedly, President Obama does not really understand all of what goes into this issue. He said one thing before he was elected president and then said another after the election. While he was in the run for presidency, he stated that he would try to put an end to the issue of the government recording phone calls. After he was elected as president, he suddenly became okay with the situation and tried to calm Americans down. If he honestly took a stand for what he thought was right, then it may be easier for citizens to agree for this action to take place. But this shows that he himself is not able to decide whether privacy is wrong or right.

It is understood that the government is doing this for the safety of the nation, but it has gone out of hand multiple times. There have been cases in which those who work for the National Security Agency have eavesdropped on people’s conversations without having the authority to do so. Obama claims that this has been solved and will not happen again, but the NSA could easily eavesdrop and claim that they were doing so to solve a case.

I personally think that it is unnecessary to record phone calls because the 9/11 attack was a one time thing. If terrorists were to attack in a similar fashion again, they most likely would not take the same steps that they had taken before. Terrorists can realize that any calls they make inside the United States are recorded, therefore, they should be smart enough not to make the decision to make those calls in the case of an attack. The government does not need to record Americans phone calls and invade their privacy.

Original Poem


My calls

They track me

They claim my safety


-Kayley Ross



Take my name,

take my card,

soon you will own me,

it is not that hard.

I am like an open book,

just type my name,

I’ll be caught on your hook.

My information is everywhere

you can find my favorite food,

or most hated place to think,

either way I am screwed,

for you will own me before I blink.

With so much social media,

filing the internet like an encyclopedia,

about our lives and what they mean,

there is no privacy that can be seen.

So let us live our lives like animals,

living in cages placed upon these screens,

our lives are owned by these machines.


Works Cited for Artifacts

"A Majority Of The Public Still Approves Of NSA Dragnet, 4 Graphs." TechCrunch. N.p., 01 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

"Few See Adequate Limits on NSA Surveillance Program." Pew Research Center for the People and the Press RSS. N.p., 26 July 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

"Obama Presents NSA Reforms with Plan to End Government Storage of Call Data." The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

"Patriot Act by The Mystic Poet." N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

"Phone Call Records, Collected by Government, Prompt Outrage." N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

"Privacy by MST." Hello Poetry. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

Reasoning as to Choosing the Previous Artifacts

I chose the previous photos, videos and poems because they related significantly to my multi-genre research project. The photos, all graphs and charts, showed American citizen's opinions on the subject as well as where the recorded phone calls actually go. One video was a news report informing Americans about the issue while the other was President Obama speaking on the subject. My poems reflected the deep emotions of those who do not feel comfortable with the government tracking and recording phone calls. All of these artifacts helped strengthen my project with factual information about the issue.
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