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Digital Bill of Rights and Online Privacy


The primary aim of enacting the United States’ Bill of Rights was to offer protection to individual liberties and limit the government powers in conducting unwarranted searches or seizures. In ensuring people’s privacy online, the government must continuously create awareness and re-educate the American citizens concerning the control measures put in place to collect security information from people. As the world advances digitally, people are transferring more of their personal information online and are becoming tech-savvy. Therefore protecting people’s private information in the digital space should be an important role for the government. Milanovic (38) explains that as Americans continue digitizing and collaborating on social networking sites, the question on every person’s mind is; is our privacy and freedom to use the digital space protected?

Thesis Statement

According to the enacted Bill of Rights, American people have the rights to enjoy online freedom, security and unlawful search and seizures.

People Have Rights to Enjoy Online Freedom and Privacy

Personal data breaches have become common, peoples’ televisions are sometimes used in recording their conversations, and criminals are hacking emails and occasionally being monitored by law enforcement. According to Acquisti, Alessandro, Brandimarte and Loewenstein (22), online freedom and privacy of Americans are always in jeopardy. The government of United States must create an atmosphere where people enjoy online privacy and freedom. There are several reasons why people must be allowed to enjoy online privacy and freedom.

The question many people ask is why does online freedom and privacy matter? Most times commenters and criminal justice-especially the courts struggle articulating why privacy is valuable. While research and Bill of Rights demonstrate why online privacy and freedom is essential for the average American, stakeholders, and civil society groups to continue explaining why people must be let to enjoy their freedom online. Additionally, as people enjoy online independence, the government must come up with strategies aimed at protecting such liberties and private information.

Firstly online privacy and freedom are vital because it limits government power. Online privacy puts a limit on government power and the power of private sector organizations (Angwin 27). The more the government knows about its citizens, the more power they can have control over its people. People can misuse personal data and affect reputations, and it can also be used in influencing the decisions and shape behavior (Fisher 192). When the government and private sector organizations have access to people’s online private information, it can be used as a tool to exercise control over the people.

When private and personal information gets into the wrong hands such as cybercriminals, it can be used to great harm to American citizens, and therefore online privacy is vital. The Bill of Rights and researchers also stipulate that online freedom and privacy amounts to respect not only for the American people but also global citizens (Angwin 89). Online privacy revolves around respecting individuals’ online activity. If people have reasonable desire to keep their information privacy, it is disrespectful to ignore the wishes of the people without compelling reasons such as threats to national security. The desire for privacy often conflict with fundamental values, and therefore privacy may not always win out in the balance.

Sometimes the desires of the people for privacy are brushed away because of an opinion that the harm is doing so is overly trivial. Thirdly, online privacy helps in bolstering freedom of social and political activities of the American people (Fisher 201). Digital privacy assists protect peoples’ ability to associate and relate with other people and engage in political activities. A primary and essential element of the freedom of political grouping and association is the ability to do son with privacy is an individual chooses. For instance, protection of peoples’ privacy at the ballot helps in promoting the democratic processes such as voting for their right conscience.

The Need for the Cyber Bill of Rights

Since the Constitution of the United States does not explicitly define protections for online privacy, it is the time that a Bill of Rights that addresses itself to online freedoms is established and enacted. An enduring way of shoring up the eroding Americans’ privacy is to document a Cyber Bill of Rights that will draw a line in the sand before technological innovations eliminate the most basic expectations of online freedoms and privacy (Kosseff 49). The American Bill of Rights was documented to protect individual liberties and reduce the powers of an overarching federal government.

However, policy advocates and researchers into human rights fear that the criminal justice system- courts may need to be re-educated as to how the principles of Bill of Rights apply in the technology era where everything is digitized (Kosseff 67). As more of peoples’ data became digitized and made available only on the digital platform, questions are arising as to how the level to which these fundamental protection rights should go. The problems many Americans are struggling with are whether their digital communications like electronic mails are protected from unlawful seizures and search as described in the Fourth Amendment.

Many people are also asking how far the Fifth Amendment can be applied to health data and information. Another concern is whether freedom of speech as granted by the First Amendment is protected in the digital environment (Locke 182). Because of the rising questions and concerns, Americans are still debating whether a Cyber Bill of Rights is needed to ensure online security and freedom. While some people like Ari Schwartz, managing director of cybersecurity services and policy at Venable are not convinced that American needs a new Bill of Rights, some Americans support the creation of Cyber Bill of Rights.

However, even in his dissenting voice, Schwartz explains that lawmakers and law enforcement officials must answer critical questions which concern the rights of the consumer in the digital age (Mendel 127). In particular, law enforcement and lawmakers must deeply evaluate how existing documented protections apply to the online divide regarding the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment regarding online security and privacy.

Right to Enjoy Security and Unauthorized Search and Seizures

The lawmakers and law enforcement officials must respond to the rising questions of how the Fourth Amendment search and seizures are applicable concerning issues of government surveillance. In the digital age of encryption, there should be a clear distinction between reasonable and unreasonable search and seizures (Mendel 157). For instance, when data and personal information is highly encrypted, how far should the government go in conducting searches and seizures? In curbing cybercrime, most suspected criminals are often asked to turn over their thumbprints or passwords.

Because of these incidences, the Fifth Amendment should be adequately redefined to address situations where people are asked if they need to turn over their thumbprints or passwords. When the constitution was being framed by the founding fathers of the United States, the freedom of speech and the First Amendment played a significant role (Raul 12). With the increasing number of cameras, however, the freedom of speech is always being trampled on, and the right for people to socially or politically congregate is continuously in doubt.

What qualifies as a “reasonable search” as for the Fourth Amendment still needs to be clarified as people get the information in the cloud? The court systems in the country should draft legislation or laws that ensure the transparency and oversight of all the court proceedings. When the scope of the search is not good enough or too broad, it means that the search was unreasonable (Raul 29). People are divided on whether the Fifth Amendment covers biometric data or information. Some sections argue that the Fifth Amendment should cover biometric details while other people say that it is not.

An example was the recent use of data from a suspected arsonist’s pacemaker of suspects in charging them with fraud after physicians concluded that his alibi of escaping a house fire did not match his heart rate at the time. Raul (34) explains that it is worrying that Americans are being forced to choose between privacy and health with the possibility of being forced to turn over protected health information. With more products having greater encryption, searching private data or personal information is likely to present a lot of challenges going forward.


Americans should enjoy the online freedom and be confident that the government is protecting their online privacy instead of invading it. In a time of constant change with the new administration which has renewed its focus on protecting the United States and its citizens, online privacy is slowly losing its meaning. The idea of the government eavesdropping and snooping on almost every aspect of Americans’ lives is fast reaching an apogee. The hacking of DNC electronic communications during the 2016 presidential elections shows how vulnerable average citizens are in the digital space.

The manner in which Bill of Rights is being upheld in an online context is an interesting developing story worth following. When the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution that human rights must also be adhered to and protected online was a significant affirmation of the principle that the same rights being enjoyed by people offline must even get protection in the digital world.

Works Cited

Acquisti, Alessandro, Laura Brandimarte, and George Loewenstein. “Privacy and human behavior in the age of information.” Science 347.6221 (2015): 509-514.

Angwin, Julia. Dragnet nation: A quest for privacy, security, and freedom in a world of relentless surveillance. Macmillan, 2014.

Fisher, Mary Jo. The adequacy of protections for the privacy of Australians online. The Senate, 2011.

Kosseff, Jeff. Cyber security law. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

Locke, Gary. Cyber security, Innovation and the Internet Economy, The Department of Commerce. (2011).

Mendel, Toby. Global survey on Internet privacy and freedom of expression. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 2012.

Milanovic, Marko. “Human rights treaties and foreign surveillance: Privacy in the digital age.” Harv. Int’l LJ 56 (2015): 81.

Raul, Alan. The Privacy, Data Protection and Cyber security Law Review, Law Business Research Ltd. 2014.

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