Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) gave a lengthy, nuanced speech on U.S. privacy rights to the American Constitution Society on June 16, 2006, a respected progressive organization.
Senator Clinton's speech was significant, as it was the first major policy speech by a Democratic leader to propose a Privacy Bill of Rights and federal privacy czar. These will be major issues in the 2008 presidential race, and may be a vital part of the Democratic Platform.
This article excerpts key passages of Senator Clinton's speech on June 16, 2006. The speech has been edited, for quick and easy reading.
(Also see Hillary Clinton in 2008 Info Center Hub.)
Remarks of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on PRIVACY, to the American Constitution Society
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to come before you and speak on a topic that is timely everyday, once again today, namely privacy rights...
I am giving a speech today on one of the most important issues facing us as individuals and as a nation. I believe we are a country headed in the wrong direction in many ways and it’s time to take some fundamental changes in direction in order to make our economy work for all people, to protect our national security in a realistic, effective way, and preserve our values...
Well, privacy is a crossroad of all these issues. And modern life makes many things easier, and many things easier to know. And yet privacy is somehow caught in the crosshairs of these changes.
Our economy is increasingly data driven. We have dramatically ramped up surveillance in our efforts to fight the terrorists who hide among innocent civilians. But every day the news contains a story of how the records of millions of consumers, veterans, patients have been compromised.
PRIVACY PROTECTIONS ARE BROKEN
At all levels, the privacy protections for ordinary citizens are broken, inadequate and out of date...
Most people cherish their privacy, that fundamental desire to be let alone. They see it as essential to their liberty that they be able to go about their daily business free from surveillance and interference.
And yet in modern society – without greater safeguards – we are all open books to whoever has access to the data we create every day, from credit cards to store cameras to phone company records...
I believe that it is not just a possibility, but a necessity, that we preserve our right to privacy, while we also participate freely in the modern world and defend our national security.
But if we keep going as we are, there will be little left of that cherished right. Every phone call, every Internet search, every credit card purchase -- they are all under potential surveillance from business and government, unless we start to draw the line, reinforce people's basic rights, and put checks and balances back into our system.
Now, privacy and national security have gone hand in hand since America’s beginnings. When the Framers adopted the Fourth Amendment, they had in mind the intrusive and threatening searches that British authorities felt free to carry out on a whim... The value of the Fourth Amendment is as strong and important now as it was back when British soldiers were garrisoned involuntarily in people’s homes...
Privacy is not and should not be a liberal value or a conservative value. It is fundamentally an American value. It is a human value.
And we have to operate from a presumption that the Fourth Amendment means that no matter how easily our privacy can be violated, that we still have a basic right to protect the collection and dissemination of information about ourselves from our government.
Now, we have to remember that we also have to start all analysis of privacy with this basic notion: individuals have a right to privacy unless there is a compelling reason to breach it. But privacy is not to be the exception, it is the standard.
Today our privacy comes into uncertain conflict with security cameras, data mining, computer hackers and identity theft. We’re concerned not just with government action, but with the ability of the private sector, even our neighbors, to misuse or provide insufficient protection for our personal information.
So therefore we do need legal protections that are up to date with the technological and national security needs of our time – for a world in which we can be confident that our security and our privacy are both protected. And that is what I would like to propose today.
Well, right now, many Americans are frightened, and confused, about losing their privacy. We see patterns of carelessness and outright fraud at the same time as we are exposed to data-gathering and marketing gimmicks at every turn.