Essay on Privacy vs. Security
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Privacy vs. Security
Pictures seen in homes across America and throughout the world of American symbols in flames and crashing a quarter mile to the ground changed the world forever. The world's last and only superpower had been attacked in a way only conceivable in a Hollywood script. However, the physical destruction that resulted was not necessarily the biggest loss that the United States faced. The emotional destruction of Americans could be considered much greater and can be captured in one word: "fear." Because of this fear, most Americans were more willing to sacrifice many of the freedoms that make this country great in exchange for added security. United States citizens were much more concerned about their…show more content…
Also, is the security of Americans more important than the privacy of individuals around the world?
Legal Issues in America ? The Constitution, privacy laws, and the Patriot Act
The Constitution, and more specifically the Bill of Rights, grants certain freedoms to all United States citizens. The major role of most governments is to protects its citizens and to punish those who take the right to life away from others. So, security is an important function of governments. In response to the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, the United States passed the USA/Patriot Act, which granted the federal government increased surveillance privileges.7 It gave U.S. intelligence agencies a greater degree of freedom of spying within the United States. It chips away at many of the freedoms that were granted in the Constitution by expanding record searches, secret searches, intelligence searches, and "trap and trace" searches of communications.4
According to Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute on the Patriot Act, "The assumption has been that there was simply too much liberty and privacy in America ? and that federal law-enforcement agencies did not have enough power."5 However, in addition to protecting the right to life, it is implied that the founders of the United States also believed in the right of privacy even though it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis
Security vs. Privacy
If there's a debate that sums up post-9/11 politics, it's security versus privacy. Which is more important? How much privacy are you willing to give up for security? Can we even afford privacy in this age of insecurity? Security versus privacy: It's the battle of the century, or at least its first decade.
In a Jan. 21 New Yorker article, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell discusses a proposed plan to monitor all -- that's right, all -- internet communications for security purposes, an idea so extreme that the word "Orwellian" feels too mild.
The article (now online here) containsthis passage:
In order for cyberspace to be policed, internet activity will have to be closely monitored. Ed Giorgio, who is working with McConnell on the plan, said that would mean giving the government the authority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search. "Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation," he said. Giorgio warned me, "We have a saying in this business: 'Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'"
I'm sure they have that saying in their business. And it's precisely why, when people in their business are in charge of government, it becomes a police state. If privacy and security really were a zero-sum game, we would have seen mass immigration into the former East Germany and modern-day China. While it's true that police states like those have less street crime, no one argues that their citizens are fundamentally more secure.
We've been told we have to trade off security and privacy so often -- in debates on security versus privacy, writing contests, polls, reasonedessays and political rhetoric -- that most of us don't even question the fundamental dichotomy.
But it's a falseone.
Security and privacy are not opposite ends of a seesaw; you don't have to accept less of one to get more of the other. Think of a door lock, a burglar alarm and a tall fence. Think of guns, anti-counterfeiting measures on currency and that dumb liquid ban at airports. Security affects privacy only when it's based on identity, and there are limitations to that sort of approach.
Since 9/11, approximately three things have potentially improved airline security: reinforcing the cockpit doors, passengers realizing they have to fight back and -- possibly -- sky marshals. Everything else -- all the security measures that affect privacy -- is just security theater and a waste of effort.
By the same token, many of the anti-privacy "security" measures we're seeing -- national ID cards, warrantless eavesdropping, massive datamining and so on -- do little to improve, and in some cases harm, security. And government claims of their success are either wrong, or against fake threats.
The debate isn't security versus privacy. It's liberty versus control.
You can see it in comments by government officials: "Privacy no longer can mean anonymity," says Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligence. "Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information." Did you catch that? You're expected to give up control of your privacy to others, who -- presumably -- get to decide how much of it you deserve. That's what loss of liberty looks like.
It should be no surprise that people choose security over privacy: 51 to 29 percent in a recent poll. Even if you don't subscribe to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it's obvious that security is more important. Security is vital to survival, not just of people but of every living thing. Privacy is unique to humans, but it's a social need. It's vital to personal dignity, to family life, to society -- to what makes us uniquely human -- but not to survival.
If you set up the false dichotomy, of course people will choose security over privacy -- especially if you scare them first. But it's still a false dichotomy. There is no security without privacy. And liberty requires both security and privacy. The famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin reads: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." It's also true that those who would give up privacy for security are likely to end up with neither.
This essay originally appeared on Wired.com.
Tags: air travel, control, essays, intelligence, Internet, national security policy, physical security, privacy, security theater, surveillance, terrorism
Posted on January 29, 2008 at 5:21 AM • 99 Comments