“When discussing State Surveillance and Digital Privacy, Mikko Hypponen and Bruce Scheiner have critiqued the often—repeated phrase “You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide”. Rather, they argue that digital privacy is fundamental to our human rights and to a functioning democracy. Drawing on the course readings, relevant international Human Rights instruments and additional research into the scholarly literature, critically discuss both the merits and risks of State Surveillance in the digital age.”
Digital Privacy in an Era of Surveillance
Increased technology over the years has led to vast avenues of storing and sharing information, either willingly or unwillingly. The NSA’s argument that individuals have nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide is one that has brought controversy over the need for privacy when it comes to digital data. It is without question that the government and other organizations have the right to seek information through the various avenues at their disposal, if such information is important to national security or to establish ways through which community development can be enhanced (Trottier, 2013). Nevertheless, the various approaches used by the governmental agencies to access private individual information have proven to be detrimental in various perspectives. One area of consideration involves the use of surveillance by the government to intimidate activists. The government is provided with a leeway through which they are able to access the information of individuals who are seen to criticize or oppose the government, seeking any information about their lives that may be used to incriminate them (Akrivopoulou & Garipidis, 2012).
In addition, the government systems of surveillance may leak private information such as the location of individuals, their credit card numbers, and any other information to unintended third parties, an aspect that may jeopardize the lives of the involved persons. According to Akrivopoulou (2012), an individual’s right to anonymity should be upheld in order to allow such individuals the opportunity to act with autonomy in engaging in any activities that would otherwise cause social or political discrimination, social humiliation, stigmatization, or seclusion. Most of these activities picked by surveillance are of less importance to security agencies as they are within the bounds of the law (Akrivopoulou & Garipidis, 2012). Nevertheless, they can still be used to jeopardize the political, social, or career life that such an individual has established, an aspect that infringes on the right for persons to lead a private life.
Akrivopoulou, C., & Garipidis, N. (2012). Human rights and risks in the digital era. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
The authors take a broader view of the issue of public surveillance, considering both the benefits of such surveillance to the security agencies, and the disadvantages of such surveillance with regards to digital privacy. The authors draw a line on the scope of surveillance, arguing that in as much as such surveillance is beneficial to security agencies and business enterprises, they pose various risks in relation to the privacy of consumer information, an aspect that calls for measures to establish limits of surveillance. The issue of the right of anonymity is brought up, with the argument that as much as a bulk of the information gathered through surveillance is less important to security agencies, it may lead to other implications such as social discrimination if leaked to the wrong parties.
Trottier, D. (2013). Crowdsourcing CCTV surveillance on the Internet. Information, Communication & Society, 17(5), 609-626.
The author takes distinctive view of the employment of the CCTV technology in facilitating surveillance that has been useful both to the government and to other institutions within the society. The concept of crowdsourcing is widely covered in this article with a review of how it has revolutionized the accessibility of information through online platforms, and how such information has been integral in proactively solving the daily issues that affect the society, including crime. The source is highly informative when it comes to highlighting the benefits of surveillance not only to security agencies by also to other corporate agencies. Nevertheless, the major limitation of the source is that it takes on a subjective approach to the subject, failing to discuss or address the disadvantages of such surveillance.