I’ve decided to start writing here about the ongoing mass surveillance revelations that have been all over the media in recent weeks. I guess I’ve been resisting it somewhat, as it has been covered by pretty much all mainstream media outlets, and it seemed a little off-topic to what we usually discuss here.
However, I’ve also been noticing some complacency by some of the media who are deeming the emerging situation as not really as big a deal as is being made out by the likes of Ed Snowden and others – or even that mass surveillance is necessary to give us all more security and make us somehow safer. A lot of stories have also been focusing on the person, the whistleblower, rather than what is being revealed and its implications for society.
Well I’m here to tell you that I think it is a big deal, and I think it’s absolutely relevant to how an expected world population of 9 billion will “live well together”. Does living well together include a possible end to our privacy? Not in my book. I think the argument that we have to give up some privacy, which is a basic human right, for the sake of some heightened sense of national or international security, is weak at best. It’s a slippery slope, and history tells us that a situation of mass surveillance does not lead to a good place, whatever the initial intentions might be.
The stated argument that we have to give up privacy in the name of national security, to try and stop some future terrorist attacks, to seek out the enemy within or without, I think is a falsehood. My question is this: if there is increasing mass surveillance, and there are still some terrorist attacks that occur, what will be the next steps? Yet more mass surveillance? Less privacy? Where does it end? As I said, history tells us this will not take us to a place we want to be.
If reports are correct, there seems to have been an increased amount of mass surveillance by governments over a decade or so, certainly since 9/11. If there does happen to be an attack on the level of 9/11, or even on the level of any of the other attacks around the world, will people be told they must give up more privacy to be safer? It seems to me that if that is the case, the attacks are achieving their purpose.
Recently there was the Boston Marathon bombing. Should international and national surveillance be increased in response to that (perhaps it has been, how do we even know?), and again for the next thing that happens? It’s a slippery slope to a situation I don’t think anybody really wants.
Perhaps there has been a greater level of concern in Europe regarding the international surveillance revelations, and especially in Germany, than there has been in some other countries. This may well be because people are more acutely aware of what kind of society a system of secrecy and mass surveillance can lead to. Oh but things are different now, something like that could never happen in our freedom loving countries, right?
If freedom has a price, it’s not mass surveillance, it’s being vigilant about guarding against situations leading to mass surveillance and an increasing lack of privacy.
Image CC licensed by Manchester-Monkey