Surveillance Kills Democracy

Published on August 18, 2013 (↻ October 3, 2023), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

Political articles may not be updated.

I meet people who think that mass surveillance, as with NSA and GCHQ spying, is okay because they don’t have anything to worry about. The argument is either that they don’t have anything to hide or that what they’re doing is not important enough.

This thinking sounds fine on the surface. It is, however, quite problematic. There is a nice article floating around on why we all have something to hide. And a very nice summary of why we lie. Security experts like Bruce Schneier write regularly about how we confuse security for control, and the security theater since 2001. You know it when boarding a plane. The successes claimed then are claims, first and foremost, and absolutely nothing in comparison with what our societies pay, in currency, rights, and trust, for having become cowards, and puppets.

In this place, however, I like to establish three simple ideas:

  1. Surveillance is controlled by the people in power.

  2. Surveillance can thus be used against everyone opposing that power.

  3. Surveillance is thus undemocratic.

The fact that surveillance information can be abused to silence opposition is what I’m worried about the most. With the intransparent and unaccountable governments we have on top of our societies today, we have no certainty that information is not being abused. We need to assume it is being abused.

We all need to be alert, whether in the United States or elsewhere, and we need to take action. If you don’t know where to start (and I’m looking for effective options just as much), support the EFF, Demand Progress, or the ACLU in their attempts to regain our rights.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!