Privacy vs.national security
Clash between national security and privacy
The definition of personal privacy is a relatively recent one. The majority of people used to live in close-knit societies where they were constantly involved in each other’s lives. The idea that privacy is an important aspect of personal protection is much newer and often debated, while the need for public security — walls that must be guarded, doors that must be locked — is undeniable. Also anarchists who oppose the state acknowledge the presence of violent enemies and monsters.
The wealthy can afford to have their own high walls and locked doors. Privacy has always been regarded as a privilege, and it is still viewed as such: a disposable commodity, a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. The fact that it’s remarkably simple, even instinctive, for humans to live in a small group — everything below Dunbar’s Number — with very little privacy reinforces that attitude. Even I, a self-proclaimed semi-misanthropic introvert, have done it for months at a time and found it oddly, unsettlingly normal.
As a result, when technical security is regarded as a trade-off between public security and privacy, as it almost always is these days, the former is given precedence. Consider the argument for “golden key” back doors so that governments can gain access to encrypted phones that are “going dark.” Its critics point out that a scheme like this would eventually be vulnerable to bad actors like hackers, stalkers, and “evil maids.” Few venture to say that even if a perfect magical golden key existed with no flaws, one that could only be used by government officials within their official remit, the moral issue of whether it should be enforced would still be difficult to answer.
National security and the right to privacy
Recent innovations and business practices draw attention to the next step that must be taken to protect the individual and secure what Judge Cooley refers to as the right “to be left alone.” Instant photos and newspaper publishing have infiltrated the sacred sanctums of private and domestic life, and a plethora of mechanical devices threaten to fulfill the prophecy that “what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-top.” (2) If you’re looking for a
As a result in the advancement of digital technologies, each of us now shares vast quantities of personal information with third parties. When we share photos on social media or send our credit card numbers to purchase items online, this is sometimes evident. Often it’s less apparent, such as when phone companies hold track of any call we make. Overall, the amount of data that each of us provides to strangers on a daily basis will astound Brandeis and Warren, let alone Jefferson and Madison.
Everyone is online in the twenty-first century. Our personal data has been digitized and is open to everyone with the means to access it, but should Americans give up their right to privacy in exchange for increased security? Both rights are important, but they often conflict. As countries around the world consider or implement ways to digitally monitor the whereabouts of those infected with the coronavirus through mobile apps, the issue of preserving privacy is becoming increasingly important.
Privacy was a problem even before the coronavirus outbreak. According to the Director of National Intelligence’s annual report, the NSA (National Security Agency of the United States) collected over 151 million records of Americans’ phone calls in 2016, despite Congress limiting the agency’s right to do so. It’s a large amount, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the NSA collected prior to 2016 through a system designed to detect alleged terrorists.
In the United States Constitution, the term “general welfare” appears twice. Since “securing the general welfare” is written into the Constitution, while “privacy” is only covered by amendments, national security should take precedence over personal privacy issues. In other words, the general good takes precedence over personal interests. Surveillance to deter violence on Americans or on American soil is part of the common good when it comes to defending against terrorism. Improved intelligence and security programs would assist in the prevention of fatalities. In the case of a global health pandemic, the common good might involve mobile contact-tracing applications that will warn people if they’ve come into contact with infected individuals. Such apps can also aid in the abolition of national shutdowns, thereby saving money. Aren’t any of these arguments enough to justify allowing for less privacy?
British debaters: national security vs personal privacy
During a National Constitution Center discussion in San Francisco on June 7, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff debates whether the government should have more access to smartphones and technology through backdoors.
Drawing a straight line between privacy rights and national security has become a controversial problem at a time when both technology and the threat of terrorism are on the rise. Some advocates of more open access to smartphones and other technologies have cited rising foreign threats as justification for giving law enforcement another tool to track down offenders.
On the other side, privacy proponents have argued that sacrificing privacy for protection just reveals the data of otherwise law-abiding people, which they conclude is a high price to pay.
Experts on both sides of the topic addressed the finer points of backdoors, encryption, and what is required of technology firms when it comes to working with law enforcement at an Intelligence Squared discussion hosted by the National Constitution Center on June 7.