Surveillance Kills Democracy
Post from August 18, 2013 (↻ June 9, 2021), filed under Everything Else.
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:
Surveillance is controlled by the people in power.
Surveillance can thus be used against everyone opposing that power.
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.
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have questions or suggestions about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message.
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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.