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 of systems today, systems that pre-emptively automate the indiscriminate seizure of public records, constitute a sort of surveillance time machine – a machine that cannot operate without violating our liberty on the broadest scale. And it permits governments to go back and scrutinise every decision you 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 dangerous policies at home. If we allow scarce resources to be squandered on surveillance programs that violate the very rights they purport to defend; we haven’t protected our liberty at all.
We’ve paid to lose it. (ES)