Constitutional Rights Amendment Needed

I’d like to propose a preemptive addition to the Constitution that could prevent future erosion of our freedom.  This amendment would prohibit four things from happening to human beings in the future:

Universal marking or tracking of human citizens using implanted devices, mandatory tracking devices on their person or private vehicle,  tattoos,  branding, and/or any other personal marking or tracking technology to be developed would be prohibited.

Universal mandatory video or audio monitoring within private residences would be prohibited.

Embedding or attaching timed or remotely activated devices to humans that are intended to cause pain, suffering, immobilization, or death would be prohibited.

A universal biometric database containing all human citizens’ DNA profiles, fingerprints, retinal scans, facial recognition, and/or other unique markers later discovered would be prohibited.

This would not prevent maintenance of convicted criminal data by law enforcement, use of externally-worn GPS tracking devices as part of a court-ordered sentence or probation requirement, use of Tasers by police, or DNA databases for military personnel entering combat.  It would simply prevent such technology from being used to infringe on the freedom of the population as a whole.

Note: This is a revision to a previous concept.  I’ve added the word “human” to hedge against advances in technology.  While robots may look human and be given ever more sophisticated programming they will never be “human” and are not entitled to any human rights.

A Privacy Paradigm

The left-wing/liberal/progressive position on individual privacy runs something like this: “If you’re not doing anything wrong what difference does it make if we track you?”.  The flaw in this position is the assumption that Big Brother has a fundamental right to know everything you do.  I can’t find that in my copy of the Constitution, can you?

The real privacy paradigm should be based on “Need to Know“, much as national security information is (supposed to be) controlled.  Suppose “the engineer” works for a defense contractor and has a secret level clearance.  That doesn’t mean that this engineer can go around accessing every secret document in the company because access is limited to the classified information needed to do the engineer’s job.  An engineer working on fighter jet navigation would have no need to access information on submarine nuclear power plants, for example.  Last week I bought a bag of chocolate chips.  Does Big Brother have any need for this information?  If not, leave me alone.

If privacy was based on “need to know” rather than “want to know” we’d all be both freer and more secure.

One Nation On Probation

Here’s a perfect example of unintended consequences.  As vehicle manufacturers have complied with higher gas mileage mandates Federal and state gas tax revenues have fallen.  Federal losses have been exacerbated by the fact that the Feds don’t always use gas tax money for roads and bridges.  I don’t like tax hikes any more than anyone but I don’t want bridges collapsing under me either, so if more highway money is needed let’s discuss how to get it, or more specifically how not to get it.

Some states have shown interest in a tax based on miles driven rather than fuel used.  That’s their business, but when they suggest determining miles driven by equipping cars with GPS tracking devices (as one state is trying) they’re suggesting treating every driver like a criminal.  It’s an unimaginable infringement on privacy and freedom of movement as well a huge expense.  They would not only know how many miles you drove, but where you went, how long you stayed, and how fast you got there, and all that data would be subject to subpoena.  Abuses of the system are obvious.  Once they saw the tax revenue coming in the next step would be to make the GPS system a traffic cop that automatically issued speeding tickets.  If you happened to be near a crime scene you’d automatically be put on a suspect list and might even suffer a wrongful conviction.  Someone with access to the data might use it for stalking another person.  The computer would become the police, and that’s evil that goes beyond Orwellian.  States might mine your location data for profiling or sell your data to companies to mine for targeted advertising.  You could be sure the data would be provided to the NSA as well.

There are two less intrusive options.  The first, simplest, and cheapest option is just to raise the gas tax.  That requires no additional staff to administer a new program.  States that really want to tax miles driven and also require annual safety inspections get mileage reported as part of the inspection, and mileage is reported when a vehicle is bought or sold in every state, so they know miles driven and could base the tax on that information.  Simply charge the tax based on last year’s mileage and let revenue lag by one year.  After the first year it would make little difference.  Where you go is your business, not the states or private companies.

Progressives can’t stop eroding individual privacy in favor of the collective. In this case, say NO.

We Will, We Will Track You.

In the movie “Minority Report” people could be arrested before they commit a crime by the “Precrime Unit”.  The US hasn’t reached that point yet but the government is working to acquire two new powerful profiling tools to increase it’s surveillance of US citizens: biosurveillance and student databases; along with the FBI facial recognition database to support all tracking programs.

Let’s start with what they already know.  Thanks to the IRS they have a complete financial picture of you (unless you’re involved in illegal activities), and they will now know you have health insurance.  They have your military records and criminal records if you have any.  They can track your purchases with credit cards, cell phone activity, internet activity, foreign travel, and driving with toll transponders.  Since the US Post Office photographs all mail they could watch where your mail comes from and goes to.  They also know when you die.  That’s a pretty complete picture of your adult life, but for complete profiling some dots are missing.  Here are the two big dots.

The first is biosurveillance, a plan outlined in a 2012 White House  Memorandum (which has the same authority as an Executive Order with less publicity).  The concept is to give the government access to all medical records (which conveniently must be digitized by 2015) in order to track “health threats”, i.e., disease outbreaks and large scale accidental or deliberate releases of toxins, to a greater extent than is now tracked by the CDC.  While it sounds reasonable, the problems are that the access is unlimited (and therefore subject to abuse) and a “health threat” is whatever the government defines it to be.  Every diagnosis, lab test, and prescription would be available to non-medical people.  With the administration wanting gun ownership to be in medical records, those records would be a form of registry.  Your complete health picture would become part of your profile thanks to biosurveillance.  Oh, he got a pain killer prescription so put him on a list of suspected drug dealers, she got referred for counseling so send a sheriff  to make sure she doesn’t have a gun, etc.  Where does it end?

The second is the national student database (actually interoperable state databases) of  identifiable student information which is seen as an adjunct to Common Core, that will extend individual tracking to a younger age.  There is no educational need for individual student identification including health issues, disciplinary actions, family income, religious affiliation, etc., to statistically evaluate learning trends; this is about cradle-to-grave tracking of citizens and possibly data mining for commercial purposes.  Your kid gets suspended in 3rd grade and it’s part of a lifetime record.  Add to that a couple of high school detentions and your kid might be labeled a “potential troublemaker” for life.

The FBI facial recognition database will support all surveillance programs.  As long as it only contains photos of criminals it is within legitimate law enforcement bounds, but once it adds photos of innocent civilians, as planned, it becomes another tool of “Big Brother”.

The solutions are obvious.  Restrict biosurveillance access to communicable diseases and toxin releases, not anything some bureaucrat decrees.  Also prohibit information obtained through biosurveillance from being used for legal prosecution (to prevent “fishing”) except in cases of terrorism involving WMDs.  Outlaw identifiable student information in any state or nationwide education databases.  Finally, restrict the FBI database to photos of convicted criminals.  This would allow the intended purposes of the programs to continue while protecting individual privacy.

It’s unbelievable that a government that is so concerned with tracking US citizens is so unconcerned about the health or criminal backgrounds of millions of illegal immigrants.

Update:  The FBI facial recognition database now contains over 400 million images.  These aren’t just criminals or suspects, they’re anyone with a passport and, in some states, a driver’s license.

Constitutional privacy amendment needed.

I’d like to propose a pre-emptive addition that could prevent future erosion of our freedom.  This amendment would prohibit two things from happening in the future:

Universal marking or tracking of citizens using implanted devices, mandated tracking devices,  tattoos,  branding, and/or any other personal marking technology to be developed would be prohibited.

A universal biometric database containing all citizens’ DNA profiles, fingerprints, retinal scans, facial recognition, and/or other unique markers later discovered would be prohibited.

This would not prevent maintenance of convicted criminal data by law enforcement, use of GPS tracking devices as part of a court-ordered sentence or probation requirement, or DNA databases for military personnel entering combat.  It would simply prevent such technology from being used to infringe on the freedom of the population as a whole.