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Designing a New Regulatory Framework for Telecommunications Interception and Access in JordanMultiple Chapters

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The impact of telecommunications interception and access on privacy rights and costs as presenting an obstacle to the implementations of telecommunications interception and access law.

Technology today has furnished the world with the gift if instantaneous communication. Unfortunately, this also means a fertile field for those who would see the world plunged into chaos by means of terrorism and other destructive criminal activities. When viewed from this perspective, it is perhaps not surprising that many Western governments have taken extreme measures to prevent the use of telecommunications for covert terrorist planning. However, an increasing number of critics have begun to question the validity of this approach, especially as it concerns human rights (Breyer 2005).

The concern with privacy occurs not only on a collective national and indeed worldwide level, but also on a smaller scale. Many have been concerned with workplace privacy, for example, and others have experienced the privacy matter on a highly individual level. While some argue for the sanctity of workplace privacy, even as privacy should be respected in the home, others argue that the workplace is public space, which is the domain of the employer. Hence, workers forfeit the right to send private information via channels provided free of charge by the employer (Kierkegaard 2005).

On a more collective level, it is important to consider issues of telecommunications and privacy, as it appears that the boundaries of privacy and invasion have become somewhat arbitrary (Centre for Democracy and Technology 2000). In the world after 9/11, it has perhaps become time to rethink the legal and personal implications of monitoring individuals and their communications on grounds such as those of ethnicity, race and religion. Surely a democratic world should be built upon democratic principles, and the law should reflect this.


Definition of Privacy and Telecommunication Privacy

The concept of privacy in today's technological environment has become significantly complex. Indeed, the very definitions that have previously been connected to the privacy concept as this relates to communication has changed. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, privacy has become not only complex, but also controversial, with governments attempting to sell their own right to invade the communication privacy of citizens and human rights groups advocating against this. Although the horror of 9/11 has abated a little, the concern with communication privacy remains, along with concomitant human rights concerns, as duly noted by Breyer (2005: 366).

Posner (2008:245) for example acknowledges the complexity of the privacy issue with the statement that privacy "is a word of many meanings." In specific meaning attached to privacy as it concerns telecommunication issues today is Posner's reference to "secrecy." This means that a person is concerned with concealing information about him- or herself for a variety of reasons, that generally concern degrees of embarrassment or grievance. Usually, people wish to conceal information about their age, health problems, mental health issues, or criminal records. In most cases, this drive towards instrumental concealment is legitimate.

Posner (2008: 246) makes the important point that such concealment is often in the interest of clear communication. The author names the example of clear speech during a telephone conversation when people are unconcerned that outside parties are listening. Speech flows freely, and the danger of misunderstanding is minimized. However, when there is fear of intrusion into the private conversation, the tendency is to be somewhat guarded in speech, with a concomitant lack of clarity between the speech partners.

The same is true of settings such as a Catholic confession, a medical consult, or a psychiatric evaluation. Clients in these cases speak more freely when they are assured that their information will remain confidential. It is also only when speaking freely to these professionals that clients can hope to achieve a remedy for whatever situation ails them. Taking such privacy away would be a severe detriment to the mental, spiritual and physical health of such persons and should by law be justified (Breyer 2005: 367).

In a wider social sense, Posner (2008: 246) also mentions that there is a certain value in the ability to speak freely -- at least initially -- without fear of attack. Ideas among colleagues or friends can for example form part of a firm's innovative process, which would require strategic plans to be secretive in order to promote competition. This is furthermore a legitimate privacy construct that promotes the economy of the country. Firms should be able to construct innovative designs and ideas without having to disclose these to their rivals prior to entering the market with the new product or service.

After 9/11, however, there has been a significant change in the privacy policy of the government, as well as the attitude of citizens towards the government. According to Posner (2008: 246), "People hide from the government, and the government hides form the people, and the people and government have both good and bad reasons for hiding from the other." Although many are calling for greater transparency from the government, the author emphasizes that complete transparency would paralyze planning and action. On the other hand, complete opacity is also not conducive to a functional citizen-government relationship. Indeed, liberty and security are both in jeopardy should the government maintain complete secrecy from the people.

From the government's viewpoint, complete privacy can also not be granted to citizens, as terrorist activity would then be allowed to thrive unabated. Indeed, it would seriously hamper the government's ability to protect its people from national security breaches. Finding a balance between the privacy concerns of government and citizens respectively has been an issue of considerable controversy since the late 18th century (Soma et al. 2005: 287). This will be addressed later.

Some of this concern is related to the current almost exponential rise of computer technology, enabling government entities to gather and store vast quantities of digital information within seconds. The focus of these abilities on general citizens would, according to Posner (2008:246) discourage the free exchange of ideas and significantly hamper the free speech rights provided by the Constitution. On the other hand, discouraging the free exchange of ideas among potential terrorists would also discourage terrorism (Poster 2008: 247), which is very important in the light of retaining any rights at all for the innocent citizens. Hence the government's attempts to convince the public that giving up "some rights" is important for the sake of retaining a certain "way of life."

Ware (p. 2) notes that some entities indeed have the right to collect private information about citizens. These citizens' privacy rights however also dictate that such information must be protected against surreptitious acquisition by unauthorized parties. The question, as mentioned above, remains regarding the boundary of the privacy concern. The complexity of this question is as high as the concept of privacy itself.

Modern technology, as mentioned, has facilitated many social and financial systems. It is for example possible to communicate instantly and at a very low cost with people across the globe. In addition, payment and credit systems have become simplified to a large extent, enabling many who have previously been excluded to become part of not only local but also foreign exchange businesses. Indeed, many global expansion ventures have been facilitated precisely because of better communication technology. Ware (p. 2) mentions many examples, including airline and hotel reservation systems, the SSADRS network of Social Security Administration, the payments-exchange mechanisms of the National Bank Americard, and so on. In addition to making life and business somewhat simpler, these systems and technology have also enabled the free flow of information and records about people making use of these systems. Although security measures are generally in place for high-sensitivity systems, Ware nonetheless also makes an important point when he mentions that, often, the increased availability of electronic records also make them vulnerable to improper use or surreptitious acquisition. This in itself complicates the issue of privacy protection. While passwords and other security technology have been developed to protect private information, the issue also extends to the government and the rights it has to access private electronic information.

In this regard, Reidenberg (2000: 1317) also mentions the rapid development of computer technology, and its movement from institutionalized to personal computing in almost every home. This has largely decentralized the use, creation, collection and processing of personal information. In addition to becoming more accessible, personal information has also increasingly begun to flow across national borders, with interesting consequences. According to the author, "In the United States, the sale of personal information alone was estimated at $1.5 billion in 1997" (Reidenberg 2000:1318). With online sales increasing exponentially, Reidenberg also noted that the global economy depends largely upon the personal data that drives it. For this reason, fair economic practices are essential to ensure the protection and privacy of citizens making use of online services. Concomitantly, such protection is also essential for the sake of ensuring the healthy development of electronic commerce across the world.

The difficulty related to this is however that the technology has advanced so rapidly… [END OF PREVIEW]

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