Protect your privacy
Published 10:32 am Thursday, January 29, 2015
When I was a lad, I would sprawl on the floor, reading “Dick Tracy” in the Sunday comics and marveling at high-tech police tools such as magnetic air cars and two-way wrist TVs.
Nowadays an unknown policeman might saunter up to a kid in a crowd and whisper, “You’re going to ruin your posture sprawling on the floor that way. And I agree with you: your sister spends too much time showering.”
According to an investigation by USA Today, at least 50 federal, state and local agencies are currently in possession of Range-R, a handheld device that uses “continuous wave radar technology” to detect motion (as slight as breathing) within a home or other building from 50 feet away.
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The devices were purchased without public debate and with the court system having scant knowledge of their existence. Of course no one should worry about privacy concerns; this is obviously an innocent, unintentional oversight, along the lines of “Honey, I forgot to mention it, but my mother arrives tonight to spend three months with us.”
Despite headlines about the government “seeing” inside your home, I’ll try not to sensationalize this. The Range-R indicates only motion and location, rather than providing an actual image. But authorities also have drone technology, radar with a 3D image and handheld devices for tapping into phone data.
As the old saying goes, if your only tool is radar, pretty soon every problem starts to look like Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed hauling contraband Coors beer.
“Don’t get your panties in a wad over this issue,” advised one federal agent. “Never MIND how I know they’re in a wad. Just understand that no one has anything to fear from the new technology, especially not that sleazebag who seems to be spending an awful lot of time frolicking with my ex-wife in the basement hot tub that I paid for!!!”
Law enforcement agencies swear they are not preparing even more invasive devices. Phone calls about a device codenamed Turn Your Head And Cough were not returned.
Of course there are some readers out there who will puff out their chests and declare, “Bring it on. I, my high school sweetheart wife and our two-point-five adorable children have nothing to hide from the authorities. Ha ha ha ha.”
These naive ninnies do not take into account the shifting sands of “hate” crimes, zoning ordinances and partisan politics. What’s OK today may be the unforgivable sin tomorrow. (“I spy with my little electronic eye…people talking about the weather but not doing anything about it!”)
The Range-R and other high-tech devices can be invaluable for locating unconscious smoke-inhalation victims, making drug busts less dangerous and outwitting hostage takers. But if misread addresses, personal vendettas or overzealous prosecution allow even one percent of cases to erode our precious Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures…
Old-timers can remember when a man’s home was his castle. Now the feds can theoretically use loopholes such as “Your moat is using three percent more water than the current voluntary limits. Probable cause! We’re busting down your drawbridge, knave!”
I hope more citizens will demand safeguards such as court-issued warrants and stand against this Orwellian nightmare.
(“Orwellian nightmare? Is that the one where it’s the last day of class, you haven’t studied and a naked Orson Welles is your teacher?”)
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.