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Volume 25 • Number 2

April 2011



 

 

Privacy , Security, and Government Surveillance: WikiLeaks and the New Accountability


by Adam D. Moore


In times of national crisis, citizens are often asked to trade liberty and privacy for security. And why not, it is argued, if we can obtain a fair amount of security for just a little privacy? The surveillance that enhances security need not be overly intrusive or life altering. It is not as if government agents need to physically search each and every suspect or those connected to a suspect. Advances in digital technology have made such surveillance relatively unobtrusive. Video monitoring, global positioning systems, airport body scanners, and biometric technologies, along with data surveillance, provide law enforcement officials with monitoring tools, without also unduly burdening those being watched. Against this view are those who maintain that we should be worried about trading privacy for security. Criminals and terrorists, it is argued, are nowhere near as dangerous as governments. There are too many examples for us to deny Lord Acton’s dictum that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If information control yields power and total information awareness radically expands that power, then we have good reason to pause before trading privacy for security.


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Public Affairs Quarterly is published by the University of Illinois Press on behalf of North American Philosophical Publications.

ISSN: 2152-0542