Misconceptions on Privacy Invasion

Posted Jul 4, 2005
Last Updated Nov 8, 2011

There has always been a degree of wariness in the American public on the prying eyes of Big Brother. The roots of American ideology are saturated in fear about the abuse of power—and no American really wants the government to control their lives. Somehow, though, the concept of privacy and control has gone far beyond its practical limit to the realm of paranoia.

A couple hundred years ago, the idea of government spying on you was a much more viable threat than it is today—because in order to spy on you inside your home or in dark corners, there literally had to be a person sneaking around to watch your actions and hear your words; such spying would obviously be intrusive to any law-abiding private citizen: who wants someone hiding in their attic watching through cracks?

New technologies have further increased the power of surveillance, but the psychology of democratic fears of government spying have not changed to fit the realities of the modern world. Our fear of government spying is still rooted in old fears of the old system.

Modern spying on the public is centered on electronic surveillance such as remote video cameras, internet tracking and satellites. They are much less obtrusive and much more powerful than ancient spying. Various groups like the American Civil Liberties Union want to limit the government’s use of such spying; I however, think that the government needs to use them more and more if we are to make a consistent attempt at protecting the freedoms that the ACLU seems to hold so dear.

The first hurdle to get past is to realize that there isn’t much that the government can use your private information for—if you are a law-abiding citizen! For example, many people are afraid that the government might be reading their private emails. But I have to ask what those people are afraid of? I could care less if Uncle Sam gets my emails to friends and family (emails full of recent events, upcoming family plans and ideas about this and that). What is the government going to use that information for? The only thing negative the government can do is send the cops to my house to commend me for caring about my family!

It is really only those people who are doing illegal acts that email scanning can harm. Of course, if I were a drug dealer, I would not want the government to be able to read my emails!

The same view should be held in regards to remote video surveillance. What is so bad about the government seeing me walk my dog or kiss my woman in the park? As long as I am not selling drugs or weapons; as long as I am not murdering and raping anyone; as long as I am not breaking the law—who cares if anyone sees it?

If the laws are fair, then why should anyone care that the government is watching what you do? There is nothing inherently intrusive about a video camera recording events along a street; if there is anything intrusive about that, then it follows that police officers themselves are an intrusive presence when watching a public street. No, I am not one prepared to get rid of law enforcement in our world.

Of course there is always the issue of abuse of power. But when it comes to private lives, there is really very little the government can use their spying for; our government could care less about your private life if you are not breaking laws or threatening the public. If the government finds out you have a dog, eat at McDonalds three times a week and have three kids… it isn’t going to mean anything. You could even live a generally unwise life (spending all your money on cigarettes and alcohol and have an illicit affair and only do your dishes once a week) and still the government is not going to waste its time trying to "set you straight”. The only people who need fear the government invading their privacy are drug dealers, murderers, terrorists, embezzlers, fraudsters and other criminals.

Civil liberties are great. The freedom to do most of the things I want and to say what I am thinking is great; but so is the safety provided by a government that has the power to protect me from criminals that want to threaten my freedoms.

Privacy Rights Essays

Essays I've written regarding various civil liberties and privacy. Some have proven controversial.

  1. Misconceptions on Privacy Invasion
  2. Privacy Policy: Another Look
  3. Civil Liberties


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John Dalmas

Mar 9, 2007

Seems good to me. I'd like a link to it on my website.
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