Big Government Part 1: Privacy vs. Security

On September 11, 2001 at 8:46am Flight 11 was rammed into WTC 1 at 446 mph. At that moment everything changed for America. The great nation and we people contemplated our own vulnerability. We were afraid. We were angry. We never wanted something like this to happen again.

Just over a month later on October 26, 2001 the Bush Administration exploited the fear and confusion among the American people to pass the most privacy-intrusive legislation in world history: The Patriot Act of 2001. Which begs a second question: How did they write AND pass such a comprehensive piece of legislation so quickly? (But maybe that’s another discussion.)

Surveillance State

Since 2001 it has become “common sense” that Americans will have to give up a piece of their privacy for the sake of “National Security”. The Government has since then installed at least 30 million surveillance cameras, built the largest spy data center on the planet, purchased a number of aerial surveillance drones, and more.

It is now fact that all of our emails, our voice conversations, and public actions are logged, tracked, and archived.

And in spite of Government surveillance capability tragedies such as the Sandy Hook and Auaura, Colorado shooting and the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. But instead of questioning the effectiveness of privacy related policy most popular media sources have demanded more surveillance.

Safety vs. Big Brother

I am not an advocate of the “Government is out to get you” school of thought, but I do question the appropriateness and effectiveness of the Government’s public safety tactics and installation Orwellian Big Brother style society. And while I do not foresee the Government becoming a Stalinist dictatorship (and least not anytime soon) – I do see a cultural shift of Government reliance – which I think is detrimental and dangerous.

For example, after the Boston Marathon Bombings local and federal authorities used the security cameras and surveillance data to identify and locate Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. In some ways this was proof positive that surveillance brings justice – but did it?

After the initial bombing Boston was shut down for nearly a week. Businesses closed, people were not allowed to leave their homes, and police were searching private homes at will for the suspects. People lived in a police state for days AND it cost the city billions.

So which was worse for Boston – the bombing or what followed? I would argue that the terrorist tactic wasn’t to blow up as many people as possible (the bomb was light for terrorist standards), but to exploit the Government’s security tactics in effort to disrupt society and cost them a lot of money. If so, it work.

I’m honestly happy we caught the terrorists, but when we deal with situations in such a manner the terrorist accomplish their goal – MAYHAM. Hardly anyone wants to discuss this though.

Big Data

Another problem with all of this surveillance is management.

I have worked as an IT security consultant for the last five years and I have experienced first hand the challenges of big data. There are various security and access concerns, storage issues, questions about how to mine, sort, and search data – and it’s all very, very expensive.

The amount of data the Government is allowed to collect is an immediate red flag. Who is accessing my data? What are they doing with it? How do we know China isn’t stealing it? Why are they allowed to have my data? Who is checking up on the Government? And how much is it costing the tax payer? And is it worth it?

Why We Need Privacy

Do you remember when you were a kid and you wanted nothing more than to go in your room and shut the door? Every now and again your Mom would walk in unannounced and you would shout “Knock first!”

What about if you found out your parents were listening in on your phone calls or reading your texts? I cringe just thinking about it.

Were you plotting little terrorist attacks or rubbing paint all over the carpet? Probably not. You probably weren’t doing anything wrong, but the idea of someone eavesdropping on your private life seemed awful.

Similarly, all of America deserves its privacy. We want privacy because there are certain aspects of our personal lives that belong to us. There are certain aspects of being free that include no one knowing about it. It is a fundamental part of humanity. A part of humanity that if ignored will lead to hostility and resentment.

That’s part of the problem with Big, Intrusive, Governments.

Featured Image Photo Credit

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