Reflections On the Surveillance State Part One
I originally posted this on Fourth of July 2013. It bears repeating, EVERY YEAR, until we take back our privacy from the government. Remember what we have lost.
For those of you who ascribe to the "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" mentality, may I present in two parts perhaps the most cogent argument I have found to strike down that myth.
This was written by William van Zwanenberg on February 26, 2009. Please note the date this was written. How long has it been since we lost our privacy to our untrustworthy government? I have edited the essay a bit because of space constraints.
" One of my chief concerns (and I have many) regarding the emergence of what Guy Herbert from the campaign group, NO2ID, calls "The Database State" is that its development is inextricably linked with the notion that as good citizens we should be required - indeed expected - to constantly prove (a) that we are good - i.e. that we are behaving in a socially acceptable and socially endorsed manner and (b) that whatever we may ask for from the state, we are in fact entitled to ask for it. That is, that we must first prove our entitlement. Only by constantly monitoring us, under a constantly operating regime of surveillance may we achieve this and in the process, weed out those who aren't entitled or those who are deviant and dangerous to society.
Such a view profoundly confuses the distinction between entitlement and privacy and is symptomatic of the move towards the emergence of a totalitarian state. It is my view that we in the west are already well on the way to a new form of post-modern totalitarian state (what Guy Herbert calls 'soft fascism') in which behavior and opinions which are disapproved of by the political class are pathologized and then regulated by violence-backed laws "for your own good" or "for the children" (think how many times that phrase was uttered after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School) or "for the environment. The emergence of the surveillance state is simply the icing on the cake if you like of the development of an infrastructure designed to orchestrate social control. Resonating strongly with the warnings Orwell extolls in his book, "1984", its obvious how the more information you have about citizens, the more you can control what they see, hear, think and ultimately do.
What's essential, somehow, is to get across the idea that you are entitled to be anonymous in going about your lawful business. I think that this is close to being a fundamental principle of a free society under the rule of law: because we ought to be treated equally in equal circumstances, an inquiry into who you are ought to be considered unacceptable in any casual transaction because it ought to be irrelevant.
Do the innocent really have "nothing" to hide? What about their sexual activities? Bank details? Medical records? If someone says the blighted phrase to me my usual reply is: "Then you won't mind me coming round to your house to search through your bedroom drawers, after which I'll install cameras in every room of your house. After all, you've got nothing to hide."
We are, of course, fighting for principles - the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy, but I have found that some "nothing to hide" folk can be made to think twice when you point out how easily they could become a suspect in a database state. As easily, say, as getting a letter addressed to the wrong person at your home address. Who's not experienced that at some point?
Within the database state, it's not whether you think you've done something wrong or not, it's whether they think you've done something wrong. And if they control your identity, how are you to prove your innocence? When it's your ID that will have drawn them to your attention in the first place.
You may have been pulled in because you were tracked to a certain place at a certain time (we can be tracked with our cellphones) or because your behavior fits a "profile" or deviates from some definition of "normal".
"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" cuts right to the heart of civil liberties - those things which protect us from the arbitrary exercise of power by the authorities. There is nothing more arbitrary than assigning a persona an official identity and then treating them as nothing more than a number, or a piece of data to be matched."