As electronic devices are incorporated into our lives more and more, they give
governments more and more opportunities for monitoring and surveillance.
Particularly in the area of transportation, electronic devices — such as the
"E-ZPass" on Northeast toll roads and Northern Virginia's "Smart Tag" — put
government officials in a position to monitor the movements of citizens.
There are many appropriate uses that government may make of this information — to
investigate crime, for example — and many activities occuring on public roadways
can not be legitimately called "private." But systematic tracking of 'public' activities
can amount to an intrusion into what citizens reasonably expect to be their
private lives. Electronic devices that leave anything other than anonymous footprints
put government in a position of invading privacy.
Many of these same items put private businesses in a position to collect personal
information as well. The threat of privacy invasions by governments
is far more real, though, because private businesses can be
sued and may suffer many other adverse consequences if they
misuse the information that they collect. This key difference
makes governments the true threat to privacy in the area of
'Big Brother' Could Soon Ride Along in the Back Seat by Alan Sipress, Washington
Post (October 8, 2000)
Proposed Rule: National Capital Region Parks; Photo Radar Speed Enforcement,
National Park Service, Department of the Interior (September 1, 2000)