The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: liberty

The Fine Line Between Surveillance and Privacy Invasion

The Newseum display encourages people to consider the issue of privacy versus security and asks us what we would be willing to give up to feel safe.  There are many interesting responses on the whiteboard underneath the display, but the one that stood out to me the most was the Ben Franklin quote, which reads, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” While we can assume Franklin did not say this with modern technology and its possible implications for government surveillance in mind, the core message can still be applied.  Essentially, this statement suggests that personal liberty is a fundamental necessity that should not be sacrificed under any circumstance, which can be interpreted in support of the privacy argument.  If people knew, or even just thought, that they were under constant surveillance, they would likely behave differently, even if they weren’t doing anything wrong.  They might begin to feel like they don’t have ownership over their own lives.  Like Marcus says in Little Brother, being subject to surveillance is like pooping in public.  You’re not doing anything illegal or immoral, but it’s still unsettling.

Personally, I agree with Franklin’s point that liberty should not be sacrificed for safety, but I don’t think that means government surveillance is completely unacceptable.  To an extent, the government can collect information on the general population to look for potential safety risks in a way that doesn’t make us feel like we no longer own our lives.  For example, I wouldn’t mind if the government had access to information such as my purchase history or even my location history, since I wouldn’t feel the need to worry about keeping them private as long as my behavior is legal.  However, I would have a problem if they snooped through my personal ideas in the form of text messages or private note files.  I consider those worthy of being kept private.  If a stranger had access to my personal conversations and thoughts, I would behave differently and feel less in control, even if I’m not doing anything wrong.  Basically, I draw the line where the information collected stops being rationally useful for promoting public safety and begins to threaten my personal liberty for no apparent benefit.

Ben Franklin on Liberty and Safety

The quote by Ben Franklin “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” is in my opinion an excellent statement. I typed the quote into google to make sure it truly was by Franklin and the description that popped up stated that this quote is used many times during discussions about advanced technology and government surveillance. I did some more research on to the quote and in reality Franklin was not speaking of the liberty and safety that we associate the quote with. Franklin was discussing a land taxation dispute and was arguing pro-tax and pro-defense. As stated in the NPR article I read, it is not the exact opposite of what people think the quote means but closer to the opposite than to common belief.

The person who wrote the quote did so without knowing the context behind it but it shows that they are pro-privacy. Benjamin Wittes, the man who explained the true meaning of the quote to NPR, says that he sees no problem with the quote being used in the modern day interpretation. He sees the quote as a form of showing the ongoing dispute between “government power and individual liberties.”

I think this is a great representation of what the board is saying as a whole. There are many people that are willing to sacrifice anything to be safe because they believe they have nothing to hide so why not share it. Others think that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice any of your rights to freedom, and the last group is those that only see fit to part with “some” privacy. While many have very strong opinions about this topic it is clear from the “all over the place” feel of the board that we see how different our ideas are and the need for discussion on what a good median is.

Feeling Safe is not Being Safe

I value my privacy greatly but I also value my own security. If I were to give up a little of one to get a lot of the other, I would obviously choose privacy in terms of what to sacrifice but the post does not talk about security but the “feeling” of being secure. Depending on how much privacy I would have to sacrifice to feel secure would alter my choice. The feeling of being secure is important when it comes to fear and paranoia but in the long run it’s just a feeling. If you aren’t actually protected then you have the right to always be worried no matter what the
circumstances. I think it’s extremely significant that the post did not say “what would you give up to be safe?” I think that the Newseum knew that giving up privacy does not guarantee safety. When presented with this question I thought about a scenario where all my rights were taken in order to be protected and yet I am still exposed. The scenario was unsettling knowing that no matter what I will never truly be safe. Though there can be precautions put in place, at a certain point, exposing yourself and sacrificing your rights does not contribute to your own security.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Justice

The Declaration of Independence, written to protect and serve the people of the United States while they abided by its laws. It allows for free speech, freedom of press, and the right to protest the government. As is says on page 180 of Little Brother, “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it,”. This is saying that if a government seizes too much power from its governed, then the people have the ability to overthrow and rebel until they are once again happy with the government. Marcus brings this up in class when they are discussing the yippies of the late 1900’s. He is arguing that they were within their rights to protest the government as it is written in our Constitution. In the passage Charles tries to argue that since the Constitution is so old that it doesn’t apply to society today. America was formed because people didn’t believe that their government has failed to protect their rights and they were given the power to rid of their ELECTED government if they saw fit.

After the discussion, Ms. Galvez asked the class to write an optional paper about the discussion and their opinions. A few pages later, we learn that Ms. Galvez was fired and replaced by a woman who is promoting the suspension of the constitution in some circumstances. She states that there is an order that rules are followed that protect life first, then liberty, than happiness. She believes that in matters of life and death, people should be willing to sacrifice happiness and liberty for life. She also states that if the police believes you are a danger to others without any proof than they can detain you. This is unlawful in my belief. According to the constitution you are innocent until proven guilty. You should not be locked up if you are “thought” to be dangerous. This was seen at the start of the book when Marcus and his friends were taken by the DIA because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. If this was how the Constitution is taken at all times and the Government was given total surveillance power, then there would be arrests made every day just because you looked up something that could be “flagged”. This is why we have a Supreme Court so no one part of the government can circumvent the rules written by the founders of our country.

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