Protect Your Privates

Thomas Hobbes is the essential creator of the social contract: the idea that each individual gives up a significant amount of freedom to a greater entity in order to receive security and benefits that alone one individual can not receive. The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments about whether the Fourth Amendment was violated when a police officer attached an electronic tracking device onto a suspect’s car without a warrant.

The officer that administered the surveillance on the vehicle — which lasted for over a month — made the defense that spying on the car is essentially the same as spying on it in person. He argued that when the car is in motion and/or on a public roadway, it is susceptible to being monitored. This proposes the question: can’t anyone — with this logic — be prone to tracking and spying?

Many people have seen this as a controversial issue; seeing this issue as probable of being a slippery slope. If the government feels its okay to monitor people on a 24/7 time period, simply because of probable cause, what else can it do to infringe on people’s privacy? Probable cause is loosely defined — a cop, for any reason, can pull you over and say he has probable cause to search your car and take further actions. If this act is condoned, who knows what more power will be taken from the people and given to the government?

In addition, it’s rather ironic that the situation doesn’t work the other way around. The news always highlights when politicians and CEOs get away with fraud and white-collar murder, but no one has ever thought about secretly monitoring them. It seems that the 99 percent think they can get away with anything — infringing on people’s rights without a reciprocal factor. If the government wants to legally place surveillances on people for over a long duration of time, why don’t they do it to people who are known for committing fraud and getting away with it — such as the people on Wall Street?

Another thing that catches my attention is why the police officers don’t manually inspect the suspects? What happened to the nightlong hours in the dark and rain with nothing but a microphone and box of donuts dedicated to catching the criminal? Are we paying cops for something that a computer can do? All these cops have to do is sit on their dinner table with a mug of coffee and listening to a tape recording whilst eating their donuts, making their job that much less honorable.

Is this piece of freedom just another thing that is included in the social contract? I would argue yes and no. I would argue yes in the mere essence that these things can help us catch criminals and can ultimately benefit individuals. If people don’t have anything to hide, they shouldn’t be worried about being monitored in one way or another. When the news broke that the government was tracking our calls, a lot of people freaked out, but most understood the reason for it and remained placid. Sacrificing one piece of freedom doesn’t seem too grand when you realize how much more you’re receiving.

However, it seems that everyday we are losing freedom after freedom. Although right now these freedoms that we are losing are a bit inconsequential — if you have nothing to hide — one day perhaps it’ll be something important that will change our daily lifestyle.

This controversy reminded me of Thrasymachus’ definition of justice in Plato’s “The Republic”: Thrasymachus defined justice as the advantage of the stronger. In other words, justice is whatever people in power say. If you’re in power, much like the CEOs of major corporations, you can get away with anything, including murder.

Sergio Flores is a second-year English major. He can be reached at sergiof1@uci.edu.