Thursday, August 24, 2006

Security, Convenience, Freedom and Privacy

Security and convenience come at the price of freedom and privacy. In the interest of security, our president has created the Patriot Act. He’s absolutely correct in his assertion that this makes our country more secure. The obvious and cliché question here, however, is at what price? Well, that’s easy, it’s at the price of freedom. In order to be absolutely secure we must rely on secrecy and the fact that our government is going to mistakenly incarcerate people who are not what they appear to be.

Convenience is the selling point of services such as OnStar and your cell phone which, if you didn’t know, can locate you via GPS at any given time. This is a mixed blessing. If you’re in an unfamiliar city and OnStar is providing you with directions to your destination, we say “hooray for OnStar!” And if you’re lost in the woods in the winter and your cell phone is with you, (and you somehow have reception), your rescuers will rely on this to find you. But of course the trade off is that when you’re home, or visiting a friend, or anywhere else that isn’t precarious, someone somewhere has the ability to come find you for whatever reason deemed necessary.

Now combine the two. We have integrated convenience into our lives while the government has integrated surveillance into its agenda. Because the government overarches our daily lives, we now know that it has the reach to access the resources provided by those convenient services. Let’s not forget the rise of communism is Russia. Crime rates were extremely low because by definition the government does not commit crimes, but of course killing anybody who might be “a problem” is usually considered criminal. Extensive monitoring of the population led to a decrease in crime among the fearful constituents, but in the process personal freedom and privacy became alien concepts.

I don’t know the solution to all this, I lack a political mind. But I’ve always been a supporter of balance and we desperately need that. Either we make people disappear and some of those people will be innocent casualties, or we let too many people get away with too much and they hurt the innocent. What it comes down to is this: would we rather have casualties be the liability of the government or of criminals?

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