The staff tackles the debate on whether or not we should allow the government to intrude on our privacy for security’s sake. (Will Timmons)
The staff tackles the debate on whether or not we should allow the government to intrude on our privacy for security’s sake.

Will Timmons

Privacy vs. National Security

May 9, 2022

With more and more personal information floating around, the question remains what is too much? In the name of national security, the answer is it’s never too much. But what protections should individuals have? Clark Chamberlin ’24 and Donovan Hughes ’22 step up to tackle the debate.

Freedom without privacy doesn’t exist

Adolf Hitler’s propaganda machine worked by figuring out how people respond to different things, then using this knowledge of the psyche of the German public to break down mental barriers and fill minds with what the state wanted them to believe. The modern propaganda machine works by determining how you specifically respond to different stimuli, then using this knowledge of your psyche to break down mental barriers and fill your mind with what they want you to believe. The only difference is that the current most obvious use is to sell you an iPhone.

The mass collection of this information is the greatest threat to our freedom. Corporations, especially in technology, watch your every move online. They collect massive amounts of information about you specifically. They have a model of you in their computers being fed information about what you say, think, and do. Who you are, where you live, what your job is, how much you make, and so on. They listen to your friends, your family, your neighbors, and everyone you know and add that to your virtual clone. They know you better than you know yourself. The only thing they admit to using this massive amount of information for is showing you advertisements more likely to make you buy things you don’t need or want. Even if that’s all that happens, that should scare you enough to take measures to protect your personal, private information from them, and to install an AdBlock to avoid seeing these ads to which you are NOT immune.

With the power of gag orders, subpoenas, mass surveillance, reckless lawmaking, and more, governments are scarier than the corporations, and they have goals far worse than making you eat a big mac. A good example of their many breaches of privacy is the Patriot Act. After 9/11, the government used the guise of terrorism to be allowed, without your consent, to:

  1. Read your emails and internet traffic
  2. Label you a terrorist if you’re part of an activist group, even if you have zero ties to a terrorist group
  3. Take your property without a hearing
  4. Put immigrants in jail indefinitely without proof that they’ve committed a crime
  5. Search your home without your knowledge
  6. Take your info from telecommunication companies without your knowledge
  7. Give the CIA private information on innocent people

And so on. The government introduced a permanent provision called the “National Security Letters” program, which allows the FBI to force banks, internet service providers, telephone companies, health insurance providers, etc to hand over customer data and logs without asking a court. One hundred ninety-two thousand of these letters were issued by the FBI between 2003 and 2006, only one of which led to a terrorist being caught. It is not worth letting 192,000 innocent persons be watched to catch one terrorist.

There are far more ways than just the Patriot Act for the government to spy on you, and if you want to start putting George Orwell in the nonfiction section of your local library then research the activities of Big Tech, and look at current bills. Read the Kids Online Safety Act, which would make you have to use your driver’s license to access a webpage.

We cannot have freedom without privacy. Everyone has something to hide, even if you don’t (you do), you still have much to fear. Everyone acts and speaks differently with someone looking over their shoulder. No one wants to be watched. “National Security” is a cope for breaching a human right, and you should not support any breach of privacy whatsoever. Propaganda is getting much too easy.

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Security is necessary for piece of mind

The growing age of privacy is also followed by the specter of the government taking over people’s privacy. Following that specter is the figure of the government with its big stick. I believe the two have and need to be in balance and one should not overpower the other.

People’s view of the rising power of national security lately has been split into two groups: those who believe that the government has been overstepping into their privacy and the other side believes that they aren’t going to the limits they should. This year the government plans to spend $768 billion on defense that will be split between the agencies that are charged with national defense like the NSA, CIA, DOD, and the other US departments in charge of internal security.

The US has been focused on national security since the early 1900s. The height of this was World War II when the US started the holding camps for Japanese Americans. Along with that was the forming of the OSS which would later become the CIA. The next high point of US focus on national security was post 9/11 with the US passing the patriot act which gave more power to the government to search and detain terrorists, but also set a stricter policy on money laundering and counterfeiting which helped keep the US dollar the most stable currency in the world. Eighty percent of all US dollars are $100 bills due to the fact that it is the currency of all business and if it failed the world economy would fall apart due to the strain of its degradation in value. After 9/11 the stock exchange took a massive hit in most sectors with hundreds of millions being lost in a week due to fear of what could happen next. That’s why the US’s increased national security has helped regular people save thousands for themselves because if something happens that causes panic the country becomes unbalanced with people making careless decisions due to fear. But if that never happens, nothing changes. With the rapid growth in technology, the government has been playing catch up, which involves passing laws that are more harmful than good. Hopefully, with time they can figure out the correct way to handle this new growth in technology that helps everyone including the state.

1930s Germany is a perfect example of extremes on both sides with it being one of the worst places to live from 1923 to 1945. The Weimar Republic failed to have a stable national security with roving paramilitary groups spreading panic and fear throughout the country which lead to hyperinflation and thousands dead due to starvation and murder. Nazi Germany was the exact opposite with such heightened national security that the people were indoctrinated to fear all “impure” people and see the as threats to the state and that the they owe the sate everything including their lives. Human and civil rights violations were all over the state with the government having too much power over the people with so little privacy for the regular people.

The US has to look at the past to protect the future. They have to stay balanced in their approach to national security because the US most prized ideal is freedom. But sometimes in order to have and enjoy that freedom the government must have a firm hand in certain aspects in life to keep the people and the state safe.

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