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Comparative Analysis: “Kyllo v. the United States: Technology v. Individual Privacy”&“Trading Liberty for Illusions”

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For the past few decades, the issue of human rights has been an important subject attracting the attention of human rights lobby groups, activists, and various non-governmental organizations. Human rights and civil liberty have been connected to the philosophy of progressivism aimed at aligning scientific, economic, technological, and social advances towards improving human conditions. If the past and present American leaders can be assessed about these issues, many of them would probably feel guilty of breaching legislations on human rights while trampling civil liberty. In the modern American society, numerous incidences have been reported of people being mistreated, accused, and prosecuted for fighting for their individual rights. Undeniably, one is warranted to state that the rule of law has been altered to meet the interests of a few influential figures while humiliating a significant majority. Similarly, the recent advancement in technology and subsequent wide adoption in the security domain has been questioned as it is perceived to disparage individual human rights to privacy (Aquilina, 2010). The aim of this paper is to examine how advanced technology impacts individual human rights. The paper will look at the perspectives of two authors on the subject, namely, Thomas Colbridge and Wendy Kaminer. The discussion will rely on their articles entitled “Kyllo v. the United States: Technology v. Individual Privacy” and “Trading Liberty for Illusions” respectively.

Summary of the Articles

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Wendy Kaminer’s “Trading Liberty for Illusions”

In her article entitled “Trading Liberty for Illusions,” Kaminer argues that the Americans are reluctant to question the intention of the government and its measures towards a secure nation. According to her, the idea of the American liberty is not a misnomer but an illusion (Kaminer, 2002). Apparently, the Americans tend to trust their government and the promises made to them as it struggles to secure them. In the recent years, the Americans have experienced various major attacks such as the 9/11, which makes them even more concerned with security rather than privacy. In a bid to step up security, the government has resulted in using technlogy as a lasting solution. Despite its benefits, the Americans’ privacy is nakedly exposed. People are subjected to comprehensive technological surveillance in everything they do. They are bugged and their houses are wired. They are thus forced to adopt everyday surveillance as a trend (Kaminer, 2002). Currently, NASA and video surveillance cameras are everywhere to help law enforcement agencies in tracking down criminals and other offenders. Kaminer contends that facial recognition systems have been widely abused and thus suggests that advanced technological trends pose a threat rather than a promise of individual human rights. In fact, she alleges that people’s privacy, liberty, and physical security are at stake.

Thomas Colbridge’s “Kyllo v. the United States: Technology Versus Individual Privacy”     

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Colbridge in his article “Kyllo v. the United States: Technology Versus Individual Privacy” discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a 2001 case named “Kyllo v. the United States,” and the restrictions on the use of thermal-imaging devices by the police as suggested by the case’s ruling. The author also examines key decisions held by various Federal Courts in evaluating the impact of new police technologies on the old-fashioned Fourth Amendment law. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case was that the police are warranted to use thermal imaging devices in search for evidence as stated in the Fourth Amendment search law (Colbridge, 2001). The jury argued that the use of thermal imagers did invade a person’s privacy, and thus the police have a right to use such technologies.

Comparing Colbridge’s and Kaminer’s Opinions on the Impacts of Advanced Technology on Individual Rights

Both Colbridge and Kaminer believe that the adoption of advanced technologies especially in the security domain means threats to individual human rights. They explicitly present their opinions in their articles. Although the articles take a different perspective on the matters of security and privacy, they both clearly show that the American rule of law and the civil liberty have been trampled. Kaminer’s opinion is that peopple should not be continually monitored in the name of curbing criminals. The state should not interfere with people’s privacy in the name of security. In fact, both security and privacy are independent aspects, and both of them are important. Even though people need a secure nation, they are to be allowed to do their activities privately as long as they are within the legal bounds (Aquilina, 2010). Presently, the use of camera surveillance has unprecedentedly progressed as evidenced by their installation in schools, shopping malls, airports, train stations, and even homes. Moreover, geolocation tracking devices and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are attached to objects and bodies thus monitoring people without their consent. It is also notable that the computer surveillances access and scrutinize people’s computer activities without their consent. What else is this if not a breach of individual right to privacy?

Colbridge’s opinions based on the case “Kyllo v. the United States”appear to be opposite.It is apparent from the Supreme Court’s decisions that the use of thermal imaging devices should be used in the police force. When used, the technologies reveal and expose a person’s privacy beyond the allowable levels (Colbridge, 2001). Although the effectiveness of security operations is enhanced, the fact remains that people’s privacy is traded for security. Eventually, people are secure but their privacy and other rights are dishonored. Undeniably, no search should be conducted on a person’s premises unless a search warrant has been issued. With the thermal imaging devices, police officers can pursue evidence unnoticed from a suspicious person’s premises. Again, what is this if not breached individual rights?


The paper has discussed Kaminer’s and Colbridge’s opinions on the impacts of advanced technologies on individual rights. Both have an opinion that advanced technologies have undermined people’s individual rights. Kaminer argues that increased technological surveillance subjects people to constant monitoring and thus degraded privacy. Colbridge argues that the use of thermal imaging devices by security personnel restricts people’s rights to privacy, too.

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