Saturday, Nov 01, 2014
Columns

Surrendering privacy, from the cradle on


Published:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." - Amendment IV, U.S. Constitution

When I started kindergarten in the fall of 1953, the administration of public schools was mostly a local matter. Other than a record of my birth five years earlier, little had probably been recorded about me at the state or federal level.

In 1964, when I was a sophomore in high school, several key events put me on the state and federal radar screen. Like all 16-year-olds, I got my driver's license, which was followed in short order by the purchase of my first car, which, of course, also had to be registered with the state.

That year I also secured my first paying job. The federal government immediately issued me a card with my very own nine-digit number on it. I was assured that it was not for identification purposes. It even said so right on the card. Soon, another branch of the government, the Internal Revenue Service, wanted to know exactly how much money I was making.

Two years later, I graduated from high school and headed off to college, with a federally guaranteed student loan and a Selective Service draft deferment. Two more files with my name on them.

In 1968, I decided to work for a semester and try to figure out what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. Soon, Uncle Sam decided to help me with the decision. The letter stated that I had until April 3, 1969, to choose a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces or the choice would be made for me. I chose the Air Force, thereby creating another four-year federal file on myself. During that time, my wife and I were married. Another file, at all levels.

As our finances became more sophisticated, we had to document all of our expenses for the IRS. The government knows at least as much about my property as I do.

They know my race, gender, age, health problems, where I was born, where I live now and, unfortunately, how many guns I own.

They even know which library books I'm reading.

This week, as I celebrate another "Independence Day," I must deal with the reality that even my cellphone records, email messages and Internet searches are subject to scrutiny by these people. After all the privacy I have forfeited in the last sixty years, you wouldn't think that it would bother me anymore, would you? Well, it does.

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.com and/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.

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