Surveillance Kills Democracy

Post from August 18, 2013 (↻ June 9, 2021), filed under  (feed).

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, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on I share some of my views and experiences.

If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!