The American constitution guarantees the right to privacy under the Fourteenth amendment. It is not an explicit right under the constitution of America and therefore inference must be made to the above provisions. The aim of this right is to protect the privacy of beliefs, the privacy of homes, and the private lives of persons and their possessions. The right is very fundamental in ensuring that the government does not arbitrarily interfere with the private life of its citizens. The right to privacy is, therefore, the cornerstone of the exercises of other civil rights and liberties. American people surrender their rights to be used by the federal government through a democratic process in return for the protection of their rights by the government. Without the protection of the right to privacy, however, such power by the state is subject to arbitrariness. The government would be interfering with the private life of its citizens which was not their intention when making the American constitution. Only in very limited circumstances justifiable by the need for public interest should the government intrude into the privacy of its citizens. The people also ought to be protected against the posting of their private photos and information to the media by journalists as it affects the reputation of the people concerned. Installation of Surveillance Cameras by the federal government also touches on privacy rights. The right to privacy, therefore, plays a significant role in a broad spectrum towards the fulfillment of other rights and fundamental freedoms. The paper seeks to analyze the impact of privacy rights on federalism, civil rights and civil liberties with a view of striking a balance between these aspects and the right to privacy. Federalism and the rights to privacy
The enforcement of the right to privacy by the federal government has both a positive and negative implication on the people of the United States of America. It is against this backdrop that the citizen of the United States of America has been quick to challenge the constitutional provisions on privacy where they feel that such exercise of power offends other rights and fundamental freedom. The government may justify the intrusion of the private lives of the people on the ground of public interest and public security. When fighting terrorist attacks in America for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) may wiretap communications from any suspected person aimed at preserving peace and order within the USA. The government may also be forced to conduct search and seizure of any materials hidden in the course of perpetrating a crime. For example, if the government discovers that some bombing materials lie in a residential home of a perpetrator of terrorism, the government is granted powers to interfere with the privacy of the home of such an individual. The search and seizure of the hidden materials, in this case, is done with the intention of saving the people of America from a terrorist attack and, therefore, justified as a matter of public interest. In this regard, therefore, the purpose of the invasion of privacy is a positive one.
The case of Boyd v United States (116 US 616) presents the first instance that opened up ma discussion about the right to privacy as contained under the 4th and the 5th amendments of the Constitution of the United States of America. The court explored the above provisions to protect the individual rights from intrusion by the government. The government should, however, follow the fourteenth amendment regarding due process in justifying the invasion. The applicants in the case were challenging the unreasonable search and seizure by the government as an intrusion of their right to privacy under the 4th amendment and right to protection from self-incrimination under the 5th amendment. The case, therefore, presents a scenario where the government may use their powers in a negative sense to intrude on the right to privacy.
The case of Twining V New Jersey (211 US 78) the court suggested that some Due clauses provisions within the constitution of America may be invoked to limit state power. The fourteenth amendment to the constitution, for example, provides that “no state shall make or enforce any law that abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…without due process”. The invasion of the right to privacy by the federal government must, therefore, be in line with the Due process clause. In general, the exercise of the right of privacy by individuals is geared towards protecting their financial privacies, their home privacies, their communication privacies, their health privacies as well as their Internet privacies. The government should therefore not be allowed to sniff into these privacies. Actions such as wiretapping of person communications, digging into the medical histories of patients by the federal government, access to personal social media accounts and well as emails, sneaking into a company’s financial statements without justification should not be condoned. If, however, the government finds it worthy that the limitation of such right to privacy is to the protection of the security, health or morality of the state, and then it is allowed to limit that right considering the due process clause. The federal government must convince itself that such a move to restrict the right is legitimate and that the means used to limit such right are the proportional to meeting the objectives.
The question of whether the exercise or intrusion of the right to privacy by either the government or an individual, is a matter that differs in every circumstance. On one hand, individuals are granted the rights and the other side they also have duties. The right to privacy is not an absolute right and can, therefore, be limited by the government whenever it feels that the security, morality or health of the state is at stake. The tension in the exercise or limitation of the right therefore is a subject of the court to weigh and rule appropriately. The Impact of privacy on Civil Liberties
Civil liberty is a term used to denote the basic rights or fundamental freedom. These rights include the right to freedom of expression, the right to free speech, the right to dignity and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, press freedom, the right to life, the right to demonstrate and many others. These rights are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America and several other United Nations international human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and political rights (ICCPR) as well as the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
In the 21st century, particularly with the introduction of technology, many rights of American citizens have been under threat. The freedom of expression is for example under threat. The right to privacy, however, guards citizen’s information online as against the government intrusion. In the case of Riley V California the supreme court of America stated the technology does not make information in the hand less worthy of protection as intended by the founders. The case represents a positive world example of how the right to privacy impacts on the protection of other civil liberties online.
The right to human dignity is another right significantly influenced by the right to privacy. When the government intrudes into the private lives of an individual through a bodily search, it interferes with the dignity of an individual. An individual’s body is his/her business and how he/she conducts it is upon his choice. Arbitrary searches of an individual’s body are so degrading, and the government should never be allowed to do that.
The media too has the right to press freedom which is also affected significantly by privacy. The media has the right to determine its editorial content and the programs to put up on the media. The exercise of the right should be free from the arbitrary interference of the government. Whatever goes on in the media house is a private concern of the business. The law recognizes both natural and artificial persons. In this case, the media houses are a representation of artificial persons incorporated under the law. They are therefore accorded the right to privacy. Where such media houses, however, are about to publish information likely to jeopardize the security of the state, the government has a right to the protection of other fundamental rights and freedoms likely to be endangered by such an action, intrude into the privacy of such a media house cease the publication of such information. In the event of such information leak to the public and the people decide to overthrow the government, the right to life, the right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of association among others are under threat of violation. The invasion by the government, in this case, however, was negative because it was an unjustified attempt by the government to interfere with the standard media groups’ privacy.
The state also has an obligation, on the other hand, to ensure that the media houses do not violate people's reputation. Individuals have a recourse in the law for defamation should their right to dignity be violated through the invasion of their privacy by the media houses. In the case of Douglas v Hello (2001 QB 967), the English courts stated that care must be taken to ensure a proper balance of the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy of individuals. The case presents an example of a conflict between the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression of the media houses. In this case, the media should exercise, its right to freedom of speech while ensuring that it does not step on individuals’ right to dignity by invading their privacy. Matters done in the private home of a person should never be published by any media house without the consent of the individual concerned. In the case of Murray V Express Newspapers the court examined what amounts to privacy. The court stated that the nature of a job carried out by an individual, the nature of the claimant, whether there was consent or not and the purpose of the intrusion of privacy. The media, however, has a right to publish information concerning any person whether in private or public so long as the information is in the public interest. The media house can justify this by showing that the information is correct and therefore not defamatory.
The right of one’s political opinion is also always in conflict with the right to privacy. In the case of Campbell v MGN. In this case, an individual in the public political debate is not justified to attack the private life of another contestant even considering the nature of politics. The case represents a positive example of the essence of the right to privacy in protecting the dignity of others. The Impact of privacy on civil rights
Civil rights refer to those rights guaranteed to every individual to be treated in equality with others and without any discrimination. They are usually quite confused with civil liberties. While the Civil liberties refer to the fundamental rights and freedoms, the protection civil rights ensures that the civil liberties accord to everyone without any discrimination. Civil rights ensure that rights are granted to everyone no matter the race, religion, political affiliation, disability, sex and any other grounds.
The right to privacy impacts a lot on the exercise of the civil rights. One such area in which the right to privacy has found meaning in regarding sexual relations, treatment of HIV patients and many other examples. The gay and lesbian groups in the US, for instance, have for a long time fought for the recognition of their relationships by the government by claiming that they have a right to privacy. Initially, the government was adamant in declaring such marriages but the Supreme Court has settled the case. In the Case of Bowers v Hardwick, the court upheld the decision by Georgia to make sodomy a crime. In granting the declaration, the court said that the Constitution of the United States of America in as much as it guaranteed the right to privacy, it did not encompass homosexual sodomy. The court further said that such provision aimed at promoting morality in America. This case perceives the right to privacy in homosexual relationships as being negative because it affects the morality of the United States in general which the government has a responsibility to protect.
In the case of Lawrence V Texas (539, US) a 2015 case concerning the gay and lesbian rights, the court ruled that the homosexuals have a right to privacy of their sexual relations, and the state should protect their rights without discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The case overturned the ruling in Bowers. The Lawrence case presents a positive example of how the right to privacy can be used to protect sexual minority groups. In this case, privacy was used as the only way in which the gays and lesbians could have their rights protected
The same scenario is true for patients suffering from HIV being discriminated upon in occupations because of their health status. The HIV patients have the privacy of their health status, and no person should be compelled to test as a prerequisite of being granted a job. Such an action would be a contravention of the labor laws. Again in this example, the right to privacy is invoked to protect American citizens from discrimination based on their HIV status.
Privacy can, therefore, be invoked to protect the security, moral and health interests of the state but at the same time, privacy may be invoked as a way of protecting the rights of minority groups. The right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution has also been cited severally by the United States Supreme Court in the protection of women’s reproductive rights. One of such rights is the right to commit an abortion. The matter appeared in the case of Roe v Wade the court stated that the right to privacy under the Fourteenth amendment of the Constitution of the constitution of America extended to the right to privacy of women to conduct an abortion. The case in Roe v Wade represents a positive world example in which the right to privacy is used to guarantee civil rights. In this case, women should not be discriminated on the basis of their reproductive health. The negative aspect however of the same is that the state in the grant of such rights is compromising on morality.