The Economist Debates
As data mining systems sophisticate, the protective walls guarding personal
information privacy are becoming progressively more porous. Often, this is done in the name of security. One position states that assuring the security of a citizenry requires the loss of some personal privacy. Critics argue that the two are not inexorably linked but rather governments and corporations are excusing security as a means to gain greater degrees of personal information.
Proposer: Mr Neil C Livingstone Believes that assuring the security of a citizenry requires the loss of some personal privacy
The great novelist John Steinbeck once observed, "We spend our time searching for ...view middle of the document...
The president has also signed a recent directive that expands federal oversight of internet traffic in an attempt to thwart potentially catastrophic attacks on the government's computer systems. We live in information-based societies and it is inevitable that law enforcement and security forces will utilise these technologies in an effort to better protect us from malicious actors. In Britain, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are used to fight crime and have elicited little public concern or criticism. Authorities are also monitoring the internet more closely in an effort to curtail child pornography. These actions are seen by some as an assault on privacy and a reduction of personal freedom, yet few would suggest that authorities be barred from access to such data. In a 1902 case, Judge Alton B. Parker noted, "The so-called right of privacy is, as the phrase suggests, founded upon the claim that a man has the right to pass through this world, if he wills, without having his picture published, his business enterprises discussed, his successful experiments written up for the benefit of others, or his eccentricities commented upon either in handbills, circulars, catalogues, periodicals or newspapers."2 Such a view, however, is quaint and unsuited to contemporary times. Does it mean that a man should not have his business enterprises discussed if he is making dangerous products or evading his taxes? More to the point, what if a bank is laundering money to facilitate terrorist attacks? And should a person's "eccentricities" be overlooked if they include bomb building or, on a more domestic level, the dissemination of predatory child pornography? Americans have no expectation of complete privacy. The Constitution does not explicitly grant or even address the right of privacy. It is what an Economist article describes as a "modern right", not mentioned by 18thcentury revolutionaries in their lists of demands or even "enshrined in international human-rights laws and treaties until after the second world war".3 The Declaration of Independence, on the other hand, states without equivocation that every man is entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Note that life is the pre-eminent value. Above all else, it is for the protection of the lives of its citizens and their cherished freedoms, that the government has undertaken some of the steps that might be considered as intrusions on privacy.
We submit to checks of our baggage and person in order to board an aircraft, and most of us do so with little complaint, despite the inconvenience, because we want to arrive safely at our destinations. Likewise, most Americans are not terribly concerned by warrantless wiretaps of terrorist suspects, because they believe that their security and that of their families depends on aggressive measures by the government to combat terrorism. The current debate over privacy is, in many ways, specious, and it has become a cliché , as T.A. Taipale...