The federal government's retreat in the face of pressure from its citizens is a good thing. But let's not stop there. We should not rely on public outcry to beat back this national plate-scanning idea when it inevitably resurfaces, perhaps under the cover of secrecy next time. And there's no need to wait to find out whether the courts get this issue right—or wrong. . . If Americans want to protect their privacy, we need strong legislation that limits the kind of data the government can gather, how long they can keep it, and what they can do with it. And if I had my druthers, the law would be backed up by substantial civil and criminal penalties for violations, with civil damages to be borne by the offending officials, not the government. Fear of personal liability may be what it takes to discourage abuse. How much privacy and freedom will Americans have in the 21st Century? The answer is the same as for previous centuries: As much as we insist on, and not a bit more.
How much will people insist on?
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