5 Reasons Government Surveillance is Harmful and Unnecessary

Other | Thursday 29th October 2015 | T


Governments have always claimed that there is a trade-off between individual freedom and national security, that both can’t mutually exist in their full capacity. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 not only fuelled this argument for America but for other countries across the world. But this invasion of privacy in order to weed out the ‘bad guys’ really isn’t as effective or necessary as it's made out to be, and, if anything, poses potential harm to society.


1. Government surveillance keeps expanding but it also has let some known threats slip through.


If government surveillance is so necessary, shouldn’t it also be so effective as to stop almost all potential threats? In looking specifically at the government in the UK, the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013 by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, could possibly have been prevented. The government was actually aware of both men and their potential threat to national security prior to Rigby's murder. This then suggests that even when the government's aware of a threat, they often can't or don't have a means of stopping it.


2. It actually isn’t that effective.

In 2013, former director of the NSA General Keith B. Alexander stated that expanding surveillance has actually stopped 50 potential threats of terrorism. Later, he retracted his statement and said only one or maybe two terrorist plots had been stopped. Despite its ineffectiveness, since 2013 the US has continued to expand its use of surveillance.


3. It targets the wrong people.

Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 showed evidence of government spying on non-government organisations like Amnesty International, an organisation devoted to the protection of human rights. This seems unproductive, and honestly shady, that the government is focussing its energy on groups that actually protect individual freedom. Similarly, in the UK , BBC reporter Secunder Kermani recently had his laptop seized under the Terrorism Act (2000) for corresponding with a member of the Islamic State in Syria. This seems totally out of line considering Kermani is a journalist investigating for the BBC, and he has previously covered the Jihadi.


4. It promotes conformism, obedience, and submission.


In this Ted Talk by Glenn Greenwald, one of the first reporters to work on the files of whistleblower Ed Snowden, he talks of the forced conformism, obedience, and submission of states with surveillance. He explicitly explains how surveillance ‘is the key means for societal control in Western societies,’ and that it’s ‘more effective than brute force.’ The idea that government is always watching actually creates a common fear and becomes a mechanism for controlling the people.


5. The people obtaining the information aren’t exactly ‘good people.’

Western governments like that of the UK and US, are trying to stop the ‘bad people’ for the sake of national security, but the people invading our privacy aren’t exactly model citizens either. Earlier this year a drone strike by the CIA inadvertently killed American hostage Warren Weinstein. The government also withheld this information for months for ‘investigative’ purposes. This isn’t the first time the US government has killed its own citizens on other soil, and it also begs the question of how many similar incidents occur and are withheld from being published. Yet, ironically, in the eyes of the government, it is citizens lives that need to be made transparent...