In Cyberspace, You Are Guilty Until Proven Innocent

You know, I tend to feel violated when I receive endless masses of junk mail that overflow from my undersized mailbox.

We can all travel back to our school days when we studied the Constitution and amendments added to it over the last two hundred years. Most Americans are acutely familiar with at least a few of those amendments, but perhaps the most familiar of all are the first ten amendments, also knows as the Bill of Rights.

Today they are the envy of populations world-wide. They were meant to be a strong vehicle to protect our individual freedoms and liberty as our nascent country evolved into a great nation. Many of us forget, however, that as tourists in foreign countries, we are no longer protected by the rights that we take for granted here. In Mexico, there are no civil rights as we know them. In England, the press can be summarily banished from publishing information deemed harmful to that country – without the need for a trial or other due process. And those are our friendly neighbors!

While we sit idly by in our idealic national setting, however, there are great changes occurring around us, and indeed, many of those changes are having a distinct impact upon those original rights upon which this nation was founded.

We find that as technology improves our daily existence in ways unimaginable only a decade ago, that same technology has permitted a creeping loss of personal freedoms, liberties and privacy to invade our national essence.

Two hundred years ago, for example, the concept of public records was consistent with the goals of an inchoate democratic society. It meant that I, as an American, could mount my horse, ride down the elm-tree covered dirt lane, get saddle sore from the ten mile ride and freely enter the wooden courthouse. Once there, I could look through the public records and find out who bought the farm next door.

Today, though, with a single request of a professional data banker, (or if I have the wherewithal myself) I can dredge up the most private information on most any American, compile it, analyze and come to conclusions about that person without his consent or knowledge. Our identities have been reduced to a virtual agglomeration of streams of data which is ripe for the picking with the simplest equipment and a minimum of keystrokes.

In many ways, our greatest national asset, our technology, is also the greatest weakness and vulnerability to our personal privacy. I find a comfortable solution to the complex dilemma in which we find ourselves is the creation of an Electronic Bill of Rights; a new set of guidelines which firmly and clearly establish the rights of the individual in an intangible and invisible world.

Read the rest of Winn’s proposal and explanation by clicking the button below!