The Revolution: Privacy Rights

Of all the trends I see, none is more certain than the fragmenting of old alliances in both the Republican and Democratic parties.  This, as I have written before, is what I refer to as The Revolution.

An interesting new fault line appears to be opening up.  Among many criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is the risk to privacy inherent with government oversight, control, and access to individual’s medical insurance information and personal medical information.  While one could argue that such information has been available for a while, opponents would argue that the difference is analogous to that between a card catalogue and Google.  Ease of access plays a huge role in what and how much information gets examined.

And so this article, which discusses the privacy disclaimer of Kentucky’s insurance exchange website, is worth noting:

Users (authorized or unauthorized) have no explicit expectation of privacy.  Any or all uses of this system and all files on the system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized state government and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign…

The rest of the article includes a Kentucky spokesperson equivocating on exactly what is meant by this disclosure.  It’s not particularly convincing, but this also isn’t my focus.

What strikes my interest is that privacy rights have historically been tied to liberal causes.  In 1965 the Supreme Court ruled in Griswald vs. Connecticut that contraceptives could not be legally banned, on the grounds that such bans interfered with “marital privacy.”  Although the Constitution makes no mention of marital privacy, the Supreme Court ruled that such a right was implied by several of the Constitutional amendments.  Many Americans are much more familiar with this concept as it was expanded in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade; the case which gave us the phrase the “implied right to privacy,” and upon which abortion rights, a major rallying point for Democrats, are based.  Later on the PATRIOT Act of 2001 and further re-authorizations gave Democrats a platform to paint Republicans as evil, power-hungry domestic spies.

Yet ironically now it is the Democrats who are pushing the envelope on the government’s ability to violate individuals’ privacy, specifically medical privacy.  This seems like a potentially dangerous slope to slip down for the left.  If they solidify government authority to access personal medical records for a wide range of reasons, they appear to leave themselves vulnerable to a counterattack on issues of contraception and abortion when the Republicans inevitably re-gain a majority at some point in the future.  Will the liberals who attempt to publish gun-owner registries in attempts to intimidate and shame gun owners be met by conservatives who attempt to publish government records on who has had an abortion?  Or perhaps publish a list of women who are currently pregnant so they may be more easily found by pro-life activists?

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