Privacy is everybody’s business or to put it differently only what each of us individually decides it should be.

However, with the coming of the Internet, how much of what we think, say and do has raised serious questions as to exactly what is protected by that word and when it is being violated.

California is one of 14 states and the District of Columbia so far that is refusing to turn over massive amounts of highly personal data about voters which a newly created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is demanding.

How that information would be used and how this might improve the workings of government has yet to be explained.

But more about that later.

The right to one’s privacy, enshrined in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, applies to everyone from the President of the United States to the lowliest citizen in the land, although presidents and all public officials lose some of it.

It has been debated by the nation’s highest court in numerous cases ranging from abortion rights (the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade being the most famous) back to the landmark case in 1965 (Griswold v. Connecticut) declaring the right of married persons to use contraceptives.

More recently the privacy right has come up in criminal cases. In 2012, the court held that a warrant is required to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. Two years later, the court said police need a warrant to search a cellphone that is seized during an arrest.

The current court has taken up an appeal this term by a man convicted in a series of armed robberies in Ohio and Michigan with the help of past cellphone location data which he contends was illegal without a warrant.

Perhaps the right was described most succinctly in an 1890 Harvard Law Review article written by the eminent Justice Louis Brandeis and his former law partner, Samuel Warren. They declared simply that privacy “is the right to be let alone.”

But this was before information about the private lives of millions of us has become routinely circulated both voluntarily and involuntarily around the globe.

How much privacy we want to surrender is our own business.

It is the involuntary, accidental, reckless or criminally-inspired sharing that we should be most worried about.

When we are being mandated by the federal government to disclose facts that are not essential to its functioning, we are entering new territory.

And this comes after revelations about the existence of shadowy organizations expert in the modern communications art of “hacking” made famous by WikiLeaks which specialize in the anonymous leaking of secretive and highly sensitive information about matters affecting national security.

And it comes at a time when serious questions are being raised about Russian cyber-meddling in the 2016 presidential election which may or may not have factored heavily in the outcome.

Now Trump, who has complained that millions of ballots were cast illegally causing him to lose the popular vote, has created a commission that wants to compile voter profiles which could offer invaluable information for what appears to be strictly political purposes.

The California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla has stated flatly, “It’s a hacker’s dream and a cybersecurity nightmare.”

The data being sought, in addition to names, addresses, phone numbers and birth dates, are social security and driver’s license numbers.

Our social security numbers which we carry through life are one of the few confidential indices of our personal identity along with our DNAs that separate us from every other human being.

The government’s intrusion would amount to nothing less than a legalized form of eavesdropping or search and seizure without need for a warrant and prohibited by our laws.

Such activity would create opportunities for cyber-mischief that would far outweigh any conceivable benefits if there are any.

The federal government already amasses huge amounts of data on American citizens that can easily get into the wrong hands.

Infamously In 2015, the IRS was found to have committed a massive security breach involving 300,000 taxpayers in a glaring example of identity theft used to file fraudulent returns to get refunds to the tune of $50 million!

In April of this year it was reported that the personal data of as many as 100,000 taxpayers could have been compromised through a scheme in which hackers posed as students using an online tool to apply for financial aid.

The top four wireless carriers, Verizon Communications, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, receive tens of thousands of requests a year from law enforcement for what is known as “cell site location information,” or CSLI which are summarily denied.

And so it goes as cyber-thieves become more sophisticated with each passing day in the use of technologies that endanger privacy.

The Commission’s only plausible rationale for such data-collection would have to be to assemble vital statistics about 200 million voters that could be of significant value in future elections perhaps to target certain voter populations and communities for spreading disinformation unhelpful to ones’ opponents.

California has joined other states across the red-blue voter spectrum who feel that this could lead to adoption of federal rules making it easier to prevent people from voting or even from registering.

While other states have been the subject of complaints involving voter fraud—most of them bogus—equality-conscious California has not been singled out for egregious violations.

Kris Kobach, the Commission’s Vice Chair appointed by Trump and the former Kansas Sec. of State when asked how the information might be used responded cryptically, “to fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.”

That should clear it up.

But issues that are now among the subjects of investigations by several congressional committees and a Special Prosecutor is focusing new light on the implications of misappropriated data for reasons harmful if not hazardous to a democracy’s functioning.

Is the compromise of our voting rights through knowing manipulations of our election machinery by a foreign power not at the heart of the controversy which has cast a dark cloud over the nation’s future?

Wouldn’t the obtainment of such data only help enterprising hackers already versed in stealing personal identities for financial gain? Or why wouldn’t this be a boon to marketers with little regard for privacy safeguards?

Just a portion of California’s 17.9 million voters are enough by themselves or that of a combination of urban states to shift the balance in a national election if popular votes trumped (pun intended) the antiquated electoral college—provable by the 2016 climax.

That is a fact no doubt not lost on those currently empowered who consider themselves the best custodians of the nation’s future.

That remains to be seen.

Regardless, a citizens’ rights to privacy in their homes or in the voting booth are at least equal to a government’s need to prevent the release of highly sensitive information for the legitimate protection of its citizenry.

California cannot be forced to hand over this data and it should stand firm in its resolve not to do so.

This is the next frontier in the ongoing debate about our civil liberties and how they could be violated with ominous repercussions if we do not get it right.

In the new age of digital democracy we face formidable challenges to our freedoms yet unforeseen. Surely we cannot afford to compromise the rights it has taken 241 years to secure.