Suhaas Katikaneni: Balancing safety and privacy under the Constitution
Editor’s note: This is the winning middle-school essay in the 2013 New Hampshire Constitution Day Essay contest, sponsored by the state Supreme Court, the Nackey Loeb School of Communications and the state Department of Education.
After the 9-11 terrorist attacks and recent Boston bombings, the U.S. government stepped up security. Many people think this is necessary because it ensures more safety, but a lot of people are also concerned that some of the new safety measures might interfere with their privacy.
The Bill of Rights provided by the U.S. Constitution does not have an explicit mention of privacy. However, Amendments 4 and 14 are interpreted as ensuring the right to individual privacy. Sacrificing some privacy — like having to go through metal detectors — to increase safety is reasonable and should not be opposed by anyone. Increasing safety and providing stability to our nation should be the first priority of government.
However, the excessive interference of personal privacy — with measures like the constant monitoring of all individual communications — is not consistent with the spirit of our Constitution. It is also costly and inefficient. For example, consider the recent Boston bombing case. The National Security Agency (NSA) recently admitted tracking emails and phone calls of U.S. citizens, but they were not able to prevent the incident. As you can see, collecting excessive personal information does not necessarily lead to better security.
Once the United States starts compromising personal privacy, where and when will it stop? Are we willing to become a country like the former Soviet Union?
Privacy and safety need not be mutually exclusive. We can provide better safety without compromising privacy by inventing new non-invasive technologies.
In summary, I think safety should not be at the cost of privacy. We should be able to provide better security while safeguarding privacy. Whenever there is a measure that can breach personal privacy, it should be clearly communicated to the affected people with a proper justification for its need. There should also be an oversight by the Supreme Court to decide if the amount of privacy breached is in tune with the spirit of our Constitution.
Suhaas Katikaneni is a sixth-grader at Fairground Middle School in Nashua.