Justifying Mass Surveillance: A Fallacious Myth

Dennis Faas's picture

Is it a 'good' thing that Britain, the United States, and several other countries are developing more sophisticated surveillance technology?

The premise that individuals have nothing to hide and nothing to fear in a 'big brother' society is nothing more than a myth riddled with false assumptions.

A multitude of problems can arise from continuously gathering too much data. Trusting the government and private companies -- entities full of people, some of which will inevitably have an immoral few -- make it easier for data to be misused and error prone. That said, people who have nothing to hide and nothing to fear may eventually find their data misused in the future. (Source: computerweekly.com)

With the advent of data-mining, thinking that a single entity holds your collected information is a dangerous and misleading fallacy. Your personal information held by the government will eventually be shared, within the government and with the private sector.

Regardless of whatever safeguards may have been implemented to safeguard your personal information, it's a question of when -- not if -- said data will end up being corrupted or lost.

Due to the massive amounts of data collected, occasional inconsistencies will occur. Having a humongous database that is completely accurate 100% of the time is a pipe dream. For example, look at the infamous U.S. No Fly List. As history has repeatedly proven, this is never achieved.

When Your Personal Data is Corrupted or Lost

If your name resembles an alleged terrorist -- as was the case with Khalid El-Masri, a German national who was rendered to Afghanistan and brutally tortured due to a case of mistaken identity -- you're more than likely going to have some major problems in today's surveillance society.

  • You could end up finding your personal information -- in its naked glory, so to speak -- posted on the Internet for the whole world to see.
  • You could end up being wrongfully arrested.
  • You could find yourself losing your job or erroneously stigmatized as a criminal or sex offender because human error resulted in your personal information be incorrectly entered into the database. Mistakes like these are becoming increasingly common.

Now that some police cars are being fitted with fingerprint scanners and the upcoming ability to check your DNA on the spot, a new breed of lost and corrupted data will emerge.

Nothing Justifies Invasions of Privacy

Everyone has something to hide. No one wants to be filmed 24 hours a day or have their intimate activities and preferences, medical records, financial data and other personal information accessible to the rest of the world.

The premise that you have nothing to hide and nothing to fear is a myth, as recently noted by Computer Weekly. It insults intelligence and disregards reality. (Source: computerweekly.com)

The same personal information collected for commercial purposes can be used for criminal purposes. Privacy is important because without it, information will be abused by those in power even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance. Privacy protects us from that abuse. (Source: wired.com)

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