Legal and Constitutional Issues Associated with Technology
Technology and Crime
Technology is widely used in almost all aspects of life; communication, transportation, and housing, among other areas. Goodman (2015) asserts that all physical objects in the world are slowly dematerializing and transforming into information technology. For instance, technology is steadily becoming the realm of every mode of transport, including cars, elevators, trains, and airplanes. While the benefits of using technology cannot be opposed, its use to facilitate cyber-threats is an issue that raises concerns among policymakers and victims of technology-related crimes. Unfortunately, technology is advancing too fast for the law to keep pace, making cybercrimes a significant issue for governments and the citizens.
Relationship Between Technology and Crime
While technological advancement is intended to provide both anticipated and unanticipated benefits to its users, it may be misused by people for their gain. In most instances, technology is either abused or used to facilitate crime. For example, some technologies, such as the Internet, are used in crimes, including money laundering and fraud. According to Stalans and Finn (2016), most people today choose internet-based crimes because the Internet is fragmented, making it difficult for all governments across the world to establish standard norms that guide appropriate conduct and criminal laws that govern deviant activities. Additionally, some choose internet-based crimes because some of the deviant activities conducted over the Internet are difficult to trace, making it almost impossible for law enforcement agencies to bring cybercriminals to justice. Generally, technological advances, especially the Internet, facilitates extremely organized forms of crimes, which continue to undermine the economic, social, and cultural status of most countries.
The Law and Technology
While most governments and policymakers are aware of the systematized and changing nature of cyber-crimes, the law has not kept pace with technology to effectively handle some of the threats as they arise. By 2010, the U.S. laws provided for approximately 30 different types of substantive cybercrime, with some being updated and added in recent years (Winmill, Metcalf & Band, 2010). Undoubtedly, some of the cybercrimes that were addressed back then, such as spam and spoofing email addresses, have evolved while other internet-based crimes have emerged. Nonetheless, the laws required to govern criminal procedures involving such threats are yet to be established.
Some of the previous occurrences in the United States are a clear depiction of the inadequacies in the laws governing cybercrime. For instance, during the 2016 United States presidential election, a group of allegedly Russian hackers was involved in a phishing activity that compromised campaigns (“2016 Presidential Elections,” 2019). While the FBI investigated the matter, the hackers were not brought to justice for the crime. Although the reasons for failure to complete the task were not established, inadequate law may have significantly compromised the activity. Notably, the United States has limited international reporting and cooperation legislations, which makes it easier for cybercriminals to operate in the country with impunity. With the ongoing advances in technology, cyber-attacks are no longer limited by geographical location. Hence, this explains the way Russian hackers were able to send a single phishing email and steal thousands of emails from the DNC server (“2016 Presidential Elections,” 2019). Thus, the failure of laws to keep pace with such developments makes it more difficult for criminal justice to address the issue of cyber-crimes.
“2016 Pesidential Campaigns Hacking Fast Facts” (2019, October 31). CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/26/us/2016-presidential-campaign-hacking-fast-facts/index.html
Goodman, M. (2015, March 1). Crime has gone high-tech, and the law can’t keep up. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2015/03/geeks-guide-marc-goodman/
Stalans, L., & Finn, M. (2016). Understanding how the internet facilitates crime and deviance. International Journal of Evidence-Based Research, Policy, and Practice, 11(4), 501-508.
Winmill, L., Metcalf, D., & Band, M. (2010). Cybercrime: Issues and challenges in the United States. Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review, 7(1), 19-34.
Technology and Criminal Justice
While technological advancement is associated with multiple remarkable benefits, it also leaves a trail of unsolved issues in criminal justice. Today, several innovations have been made in the technological industry, creating a challenge for the criminal justice system to handle technology-related cases within the scope of the existing constitution. Notably, technology is evolving drastically, generating issues that may not have initially been imagined nor accounted for in the U.S. Constitution. Although several problems associated with technology are evident, the scope of privacy is considered among the top constitutional issues relating to technology in the contemporary world.
Relationship between Technology and Criminal Justice
Just like other organizations that rely on technology for the smooth running of their operations, criminal justice also utilizes technology to facilitate the delivery of justice to law offenders. The digital age makes it easier for law enforcement agencies to monitor what happens in public space and use the information to control crime (Cessato, 2019). For instance, through technological innovations such as CCTV cameras and GPS, police officers can easily trace and charge suspects. While such technologies often work to the advantage of the government, they also raise concerns regarding the adversities of redefining public space, especially on the grounds of invasion of privacy.
Constitutional Issues Relating to Technology
The use of technology in criminal justice raises legal issues that relate to privacy. Notably, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable and warrantless searches and seizures (“Fourth Amendment,” n.d). Hence, a person’s property and effects cannot be searched without the issue of a warrant. Contrarily, the third-party doctrine of the Fourth Amendment allows the government to access contents of any wire or electronic communication without issuing a notice to the subscriber or customer, as long as a warrant is obtained using the procedures described in the Federal Rules of Criminal procedure (Richards, 2017). Regarding this principle, criminal justice can access information shared with a third party without issuing any notice to the customer.
The scope of the constitution in protecting personal property and the technological innovations that redefine the public space create privacy-related constitutional issues. Notably, some technologies, such as cell-site location, raises concerns about whether the government should issue a customer with a warrant before accessing their information from their service providers. An example of a legal event that illustrates this constitutional issue is the Carpenter v. United States case. The FBI conducted a warrantless search on Carpenter’s personal location information maintained by a third party. During the trial, the court observed that the digital data and personal location information, which was maintained by a third party lie at the intersection of two lines of cases (“Supreme Court,” 2017). On the one hand, it would qualify for the third-party doctrine, where privacy was not an expectation for information shared with third parties. On the other hand, the cell-site information was not part of the credit card and financial records, since the information submitted to the service provider was automatically generated through the technology in their cell phones. For this reason, a warrant would be required to access the data.
Based on the Carpenter v. United States case scenario, it is evident that privacy is a constitutional issue relating to technology. Notably, the provisions of the constitution and its Amendments are limited in scope, making it difficult for the criminal justice system to settle cases associated with current technology issues. With the high rate at which technology is advancing and the multiple ways in which it is being utilized in criminal justice, the existing guidelines in the constitution may not be sufficient to handle future technology-related issues.
“Fourth Amendment” (N.d). Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment
“Supreme court of the United States” (2017). Retrieved from https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-402_new_o75q.pdf
Ceccato, V. (2019). Special issue: Crime and control in the digital era. Criminal Justice Review, 44(1), 5-10.
Richards, N. (2017). The third-party doctrine and the future of the cloud. Washington University Law Review, 94(1441), 1-52.