Surveillance is good? What happens when things go wrong?




These days, we are told, and there is certainly some validity to this, that more surveillance means more security.

This is all fine, when we live in a country where we trust the government, or when we work in a company where we trust the management. But my sister, Dr. Magali Gravier, Political Scientist, at the University of Salzburg is quick to point out that there have been many previously recorded cases where things have turned sour, where governments have stopped being the all benevolent entity that most of us can enjoy and trust in our modern world, or when corporate management suddenly decides to change the rules.

We are asked to provide more and more information that gets stored, correlated, centralized, and finally, accessible (albeit with strict controls) by the authorities, all of this, of course, to enable our governments to better catch criminals "you don't have to worry if you only do legitimate things". Take a look at what happened between 1939 and 1945. Before that time, the German people could (like most of us do) blindly trust their governments. Then, in a few weeks or months, before anybody new it, they were under a totalitarian regime. Imagine the destruction, had the German government of that time previously decided to store centrally information on citizen's ethnic origins, or religion. Imagine how much faster, and how much thorrowly they could have accomplished their crimes.

What protects us, today, from something bad happening? Ah, yes, we live in democracies. But is that really enough? Coups-d'Etat happen every year, in countries that might have seem to be peaceful just before. And then there are slow drifts that the people don't necessarily catch at first... and only realize when it's too late, when they have lost their liberties.

Considering the risks involved in relinquishing some liberties, is it worth it losing a bit of liberty in order to, maybe, gain some security? Are we certain that the incremental security gain is really there? Remember that the more you constrain liberties, the more you move away from democracy and liberty, and thus the more you give victory to terrorists. The balance is very delicate.

Does it make sense, for example, for me to write down in 2 separate documents, before flying to the USA, the complete coordinates of the hotel I will stay in... when I can, the moment I arrive at my first hotel, cancel my reservation there and book another hotel to which I pay cash.

Does it make sense, also, to prevent me from carrying a nail clip inside a plane, when I am allowed to walk in the same plane with a nice glass bottle of perfume that will fragment into very sharp and cutting shards the moment I strike something hard like an seat armrest with it?

Think about it. What are we really trying to accomplish? Who's game are we playing? Who wins, in the end?
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