Originally published in the Guardian, 21 February 2014
Today, an ordinary person can’t pick up the phone, email a friend or order a book without comprehensive records of their activities being created, archived, and analysed by people with the authority to put you in jail or worse. I know: I sat at that desk. I typed in the names.
When we know we’re being watched, we impose restraints on our behaviour – even clearly innocent activities – just as surely as if we were ordered to do so. The mass surveillance systems of today, systems that pre-emptively automate the indiscriminate seizure of private records, constitute a sort of surveillance time-machine – a machine that simply cannot operate without violating our liberty on the broadest scale. And it permits governments to go back and scrutinise every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever spoken to, and derive suspicion from an innocent life. Even a well-intentioned mistake can turn a life upside down.
To preserve our free societies, we have to defend not just against distant enemies, but against dangerous policies at home. If we allow scarce resources to be squandered on surveillance programmes that violate the very rights they purport to defend, we haven’t protected our liberty at all: we have paid to lose it.
The Dana Centre at the London Science Museum will host a public debate on ‘The World after Snowden’ on 6 November 2013, 7pm-8.45pm.
“Is there a balance between national security and privacy? Would the world be a better place without surveillance? Discuss how the whistleblower Edward Snowden changed the way we view privacy.”
Tickets are free on a first come, first served basis on application to ticketsdanacentre@ScienceMuseum.ac.uk
The Dana Centre is in the Wellcome Wolfson Building, 165 Queens Gate, London SW7 5HD, UK. Ticket holders are advised to arrive 20 minutes before the start of the debate.
This Tailored Access Operations presentation shows how the NSA uses a technique codenamed EgotisticalGiraffe to attack Tor users through vulnerable computer software: see the Guardian article NSA and GCHQ target Tor network that protects anonymity of web users, 4 October 2013.
Freedom Not Fear was an event held in Brussels on the weekend starting Friday 27 September about issues that Edward Snowden’s revelations helped illuminate. The purpose of this yearly event is to advocate for “defending fundamental rights in our networked world”.
This year the event keynote was given by privacy expert Caspar Bowden, who recently published a study on ‘privacy in the cloud’ for the European Parliament. Bowden discussed what has been learnt since Snowden’s revelations and how this affects Europe.