Privacy, PRISM, and the flawed 1984 Argument

"Privacy, in other words, involves so many things that it is impossible to reduce them all to one simple idea.  And we need not do so."

Privacy means different things to different people, and it's almost insultingly oppressive to attempt to superimpose your definition of privacy onto others.  For example, my personal belief is that anything conducted in or seen from the public domain should hold no expectation of privacy.  However, others might disagree with that assertion and deem me to be a government stooge.

Who am I to superimpose my privacy expectations onto them?  Unfortunately, in a democratic republic, that's what we do every time we vote.  That's what our leaders do every time they make decisions, and that's what PRISM and CISPA is all about.

The problem isn't an Orwellian society which everyone screams about.  Surveillance, in and of itself, is not inherently bad.  This article does a very good job of explaining how, even when demanding strict adherence to the law and using surveillance as a tool to do just that, the story still isn't an accurate metaphor for the changes in society that we face today.

The more apt metaphor is The Trial which basically states that it's the power over the information, which is tightly guarded, that poses the problem.  This power allows government officials to (un)intentionally manipulate said data to paint a certain picture.  However, without access to these data troves, or the means for the average citizen to create their own data warehouse, defending against such cases will prove difficult if not impossible.


Take for instance the example depicted in this article.  An author who is writing a story about a character who manufactures Meth purchases several books on the history, cooking, and dispersement of the drug.  Without a complete, all-sources look into this man's life, you would only get part of the picture:  He purchased Meth at Barnes and Noble using his American Express card.

However, even if we were to adopt a 100% complete survellience outlook, you would still run into the problem of information overload, information control, and potential corrupt officiates. So a partial picture is bad, and a complete picture is draconian. So how do we defend ourselves against the terrorists?

Well, I honestly don't know what the correct balance of Security :: Freedom is.  I simply don't.  What I can tell you is that secret government orders to companies that you can't talk about, can't know about, and can't fight isn't it.  Afterall, the fundamental objective of terrorism is to terrorize.  The actual act of terror is simply a catalyst to cause the victims (not the people directly affected by the act, but the the survivors and witnesses) to live in so much fear that continuing life as they know it is no longer possible.  To which, the terrorists have succeeded.

This isn't an Orwellian society, this isn't a prophecy of the end times, and it isn't anything else FOX or CNN would have you believe; but it's also not OK.  We should feel violated, hurt, and outraged; but we do need to keep our wits about us and keep our freedoms.  Otherwise, our moral outrage will be as brief as it is bright.

In closing, I leave you with two quotes:

"The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long."

"He who gives up his freedom for security deserves neither."