The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday to allow sweeping background checks of JPL scientists and other government contract workers, ruling that privacy rights do not prevent officials from digging into employees’ medical, financial and sexual histories.
JPL’s virtually exclusive mission is planetary exploration. So it’s obvious why such intrusions are necessary. We cannot have someone who once declared bankruptcy or likes the occasional shocker selling research to Jupiter before it can be broadcast on Nova; or telling Saturnians, “we’re going to enjoy probing your moons!”. Science is clearly best served when it is performed only by the most politically sanitized of people, like Tycho.
But have no fear, just because the decision was unanimous doesn’t mean it applies to fields filled by non-scientist types:
…the decision, which holds JPL researchers to the similar standards as government workers with access to classified information, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the justices were not ruling on whether citizens had a constitutional right to informational privacy.
Oh, well, thank goodness…uh, what?
“We reject the argument that the government, when it requests job-related personal information in an employment background check, has a constitutional burden to demonstrate that its questions are ‘necessary,’” Alito wrote.
Well, so much for being limited. Seeing as how the Constitutional Right-to-Privacy only applies to, you know, the government, that doesn’t sound so limited at all.