In the following video, James Otteson, professor of philosophy and economics and Yeshiva University, explains in simple terms why those who have “nothing to hide” should nonetheless fear government surveillance of Americans’ electronic communications.
I, too, made the argument that those with “nothing to hide” should vehemently oppose government spying of innocent Americans. Let’s review my points:
“Nothing to hide” is a myth that’s built on certain false assumptions that are rarely–if ever– considered when draconian surveillance measures are being pushed. Toby Stevens of Computer Weekly characterizes these assumptions as continuity, context, control, and consistency:
Continuity: When a large data gathering exercise is started, the lifespan of the system will almost always be greater than that of its instigators. The most benign and caring government, authority or private company is inevitably subject to a change of management, and if the new executive does not share their moral stance, then data can be reused for very dangerous purposes. Those who provided data believing they had nothing to fear may find that data is misused in the future.
So, change of management–continuity–means that draconian laws can be abused by future regimes. I guarantee that some enterprising government bureaucrats already use sensitive data gathered in the name of the “War on Terror” to further political agendas. While such abuse may be isolated today, it could become official policy in the future.
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