After 226 years, the Constitution remains as the nation’s governing document.
But some Americans question whether we still abide by its rules.
UT students and Knoxville citizens gathered Tuesday to celebrate Constitution Day in the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, where they could sign a copy of the Constitution and hear a panel discussion centered on Fourth Amendment issues.
The Fourth Amendment states that citizens and their property cannot be searched or taken without probable cause.
Glenn Reynolds, a professor of law and the creator of Instapundit.com, led a discussion about the Fourth Amendment, privacy, security and transparency. This amendment, he explained, is unique.
“The Fourth Amendment was actually unlike much of the bill of rights,” Reynolds said. “It was a big departure from the English custom in that it was specifically a response to the English custom of the general warrant.”
General warrants allowed English officers to perform unprovoked searches for criminal evidence. The Fourth Amendment repudiated this, allowing no search without substantial cause for suspicion.
In Reynolds' opinion, the current government has returned to the ways of our British ancestors, citing the National Security Agency's technique of gathering and storing masses of information for potential investigative use.
Brandon Prins, a professor of political science, spoke about the national and global issues of security and transparency.
Concerned about a cyber-attack on the U.S., Prins criticized the NSA's plan to harbor all of this collected information in one location, claiming such data bases could be targeted for attack from foreign or domestic hackers.
With the ability to hoard information becoming commonplace, Reynolds lamented the lack of defense for average citizens.
"Privacy was actually a fairly recent innovation with architecture and technology where people were able to live separately enough and keep their affairs separate enough that they were able to keep some things secret from some people," Reynolds said. "There is lots of privacy for government leaders and officials, but much less for the rest of us."
Suzi Allard, an associate professor of information sciences, explained that information entered on any website is recorded. Internet activity history, too, is recorded while social networks like Facebook are in use. This data is stored and becomes observable by corporations, which use it to personalize advertisements.
The Director of the Center for Intelligence Systems and Machine Learning Michael W. Berry, who is also a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, suggested maintaining privacy in a highly connected world, however possible. When consumers make a purchase and are asked for a phone number, for example, they may refuse to provide this unnecessary information.
"Protecting your digital footprint is possible in some cases if you're a little more in tune to what you're doing," Berry said.