Should surveillance be tolerated?
In light of WikiLeaks’ release of documents describing the CIA’s ability to break into devices, the public has questioned if privacy should be given up for national security.
March 21, 2017
Privacy does not exist
The WikiLeaks release of several documents detailing CIA hacking has put the media and public into paranoia once again about the end of what is perceived as individual privacy.
Given the pervasiveness of hacking in today’s technological age, the real surprise is the overblown reaction of the public itself. Every system can be hacked into–including classified government files. Think Snowden, who ironically revealed the NSA’s hacking capabilities by leaking private information himself. The fact that the media portrays the situation as some kind of end-of-privacy apocalypse reveals purported exaggeration if not ignorance.
As Nicholas Weaver, senior researcher with the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley succinctly puts it, “That the CIA hacks is like saying water is wet — it’s them doing their job.” Blocking off the CIA from potentially valuable information in an investigation is placing unnecessary obstacles.
Indeed, it is an unsettling thought that your SmartTV might very well be a tool used by the CIA eavesdrop on you.
It is a thought, however, that is unsubstantiated and relies too heavily on pathos.
The CIA has the right to hack into certain devices under specific circumstances, contrary to popular belief. The Fourth Amendment, as proponents cite, grant the right to privacy–against unreasonable searches. This implies that the CIA may hack into personal data given a worthy cause that is authorized by the government in a criminal investigation. It is the same as searching a house with a warrant.
The idea of surveillance isn’t new, either. Prior to the explosion of the digital age, suspected criminals were literally stalked or had their trash dug out for evidence. The privacy of the public is not compromised; only suspected criminals will, and should, be monitored.
Admittedly, the definition of these “suspected criminals” has become ambiguous due to the nature of CIA investigations, which are cloaked in secrecy. The only authority that grants warrants to the CIA is the Fisa court, which has granted 33,942 warrants over a 33-year period with only 12 denials according to the Wall Street Journal. That is suspicious. The numbers suggest that the warrants given are not regulated very closely or strictly by the court. A solution to this problem is for the court, which secretly decides surveillance laws, to have some transparency as to what types of warrants they are granting.
In the end, however, the only people who should be concerned about the CIA’s hacking are those who have committed some crime atrocious enough to put them in the CIA watch list.
They are, after all, the ones affected–not the public. The debate ultimately shouldn’t even be about whether civilians should give up their privacy for the sake of national security, for there is no privacy to be given, but about whether the CIA should be allowed more regulated warrants for surveillance electronically, to which the obvious answer is: yes.
Protect privacy rights
Phones, televisions, computers and even smart cars. These days, there is virtually nothing that cannot be hacked, tracked or followed. This may soon develop into a major problem with keeping our private lives what they are: private.
While the advent of the digital age has made it nearly impossible to keep our lives completely private, the information we choose to share online is our choice. However, personal photos saved on our phones or text messages with our parents are not meant to be shared with the world. To say that being surveilled by the government is for the sake of the welfare of the people is a stretch.
The 2013 Verizon court order is an example of the government’s complete breach of privacy. The court order revealed by Edward Snowden, which revealed that the NSA was collecting phone records of the millions of Americans who use Verizon. California Sen. Diane Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, argued that what was being collected was just “the type of information found on a telephone bill: phone numbers of calls placed and received, the time of the of the calls and duration.”
While Feinstein may argue that it is just information found on a telephone bill, it is still information that is tied to our private lives. The duration of phone calls and the party called is information just for the owner of the phone, not anyone else. It is nothing more than some information being considered off-limits.
The American people should not accept that we no longer have any privacy in our lives. Although the Fourth Amendment does not directly state that we, as citizens of the United States, are guaranteed absolute privacy, it does protect us from being unlawfully searched, which is cause for some of the privacy breaches.
The recent WikiLeaks document release revealed that the CIA has found security holes in major softwares by Apple and Android, never telling the developers and leaving them open for hackers to exploit.
If we are to say that giving up privacy is worth the security, the CIA is denying us both privacy and security. They reap the benefits for themselves and do not consider that others may take advantage of these holes.
The problem is that if we leave these security holes unattended, foreign governments and outside hackers to do the exact same thing as the CIA did. Not telling these companies about how their customers information could be compromised leaves them vulnerable to stolen information and a hacked account.
Misuse of this information is not only a breach of privacy, but it could also lead to security issues considering that we keep certain aspects of our lives to ourselves for a reason.
The very definition of privacy is “freedom from being observed or disturbed by other people.” Giving up our privacy for the sake of security is in a sense giving up a part of our freedom. There are certain boundaries that others should not have the right to cross in our own lives. Private information is private information.