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Is privacy such a big deal?

Published by marco on

There’s been a bit of a back and forth on the privacy issue in the last few days. JonKatz of Slashdot published an article that’s a complete turnaround from any of his past positions. It’s an interesting read in that it advocates avoiding ‘kneejerk’ reactions to protect privacy. I think that’s good. Kneejerk reactions are never good, it does everyone good to think about their positions and come up with cogent arguments.

However, I still think that this immediate jump to abrogating privacy in the name of national security is wrongheaded. The reason the WTC tragedy occurred is not that the U.S. doesn’t have strong enough spying methods. Poor airport security and an oppressive foreign policy are far more likely culprits. This article in the Newsday by Sheryl McCarthy covers the foreign policy aspects well and succintly. Veggie of the ShackNews message boards is even more strident.

Attacking the privacy of U.S. citizens in light of this is tantamount to the government blaming its citizens for the WTC. They’ve adopted an “I told you so” attitude, scrambling to pass all the spying laws they’ve been trying to pass for years, knowing that our collective guilt will make us take the blame onto ourselves. Don’t let them do it. Especially, when examination of the proposed legislation (with a clear head) doesn’t find much that will help catch terrorists. Put backdoors into every crypto product? Not a good idea for us or the economy.

It won’t help to assume all Americans are guilty. That’s not the way we’re supposed to do things. The terrorists aren’t going to use ‘legal’ software. It will just make sure that you and I (supposed non-criminals) don’t have any secrets any more.

Some have said that taking away our privacy is just what the terrorists want. That’s a kneejerk reaction. The terrorists don’t care about our privacy, they care about the issues that McCarthy brought up, oppressive governments supported by the U.S. in Muslim countries. This slashdotter says it well.

The other frightening thing is that often we are unaware of which rights have already been given up. Anyone current on asset forfeiture laws put into place for the War on Drugs? That allows accounts to be frozen, assets to be seized, all without a warrent…ostensibly passed in order to allow the capture of drug dealers before they can flee the country, but on the books nevertheless. If these new laws get passed, are we going to know their full extent? Will they really expire? Of course not…even Congress admits that laws rarely get repealed.

Real solutions are more expensive than that. Address airport security issues. I don’t mind being treated like a criminal on an airplane if it makes us all safer. I can just choose not to fly if I don’t like it. Address foreign policies that contribute to hatred of America. Unfortunately, this is the one thing that probably won’t happen, as it will be seen as ‘giving in’ to the terrorist’s demands.