While the Fourth Amendment protects your right to “unreasonable search and seizures” by the government, how it applies to technology and online privacy is a challenging and ongoing issue for debate. When the Fourth Amendment was put into place, those responsible could not have anticipated the technological advancements that would occur afterward or the various tools the government would have to monitor citizens. Many people believe that what they are doing online is private, but even with anonymous browsers, VPNs and blocking extensions, it’s still possible for the government to track and monitor your activity or bring about charges related to any questionable behavior.
Issues at the center of the debate about the legality of government monitoring and whether it violates a person’s Fourth Amendment rights include factors such as whether law enforcement needs probable cause or a warrant to track and monitor online activity as well as what may be admissible as evidence in court. However, one aspect that has already been made clear is that a private person or agency not acting as a member of the government or any law enforcement agency is legally allowed to track, monitor and even collect information about online activity even if it falls under the “unreasonable search and seizure” designation. The person then, of course, has the option of turning any of this data over to the authorities, which is why it is very important to be careful about your online activities.
The gray area that is left as the laws race to catch up to technology can cause anxiety and uncertainty for those facing criminal charges related to online behavior. However, it also means that you might have more options for attempting to get evidence thrown out of court or charges dropped entirely. Any time you have been arrested or are facing charges, it’s important to be fully informed of what you are being accused of, what the state will need to do to prove its case and the available defense options.