Privacy and Surveillance, Research Paper Example
Words: 2431Research Paper
The Necessary Evil
With each epoch of human development, social constraints on human behaviour increased and became more sophisticated. Nowadays, in the age of information technology advancement, the state as guardian of the social order and protector of human security obtained new means of protecting order. In this regard, with the new technologies, the government became capable of conducting constant surveillance over people, both its citizens and abroad nationals. Consequently, this phenomenon has raised various concerns and arguments regarding its legitimacy in respect to human rights, privacy issues and the notion of citizenship. The aim of this paper is to outline how the case of central thesis of paper is that irrespective of the complexity of Edward Snowden disclosure of global surveillance, people are more perceptive of its benefits rather than its threats to their privacy. Accordingly, the paper consists of three parts: introduction of Edward Snowden case, the impact of this surveillance scandal n people’s behaviour and, in general, how surveillance can affect behaviour, and, finally, pros and cons of the surveillance will be outlined.
Edward Snowden case
The main reason the issue of surveillance received global coverage is related to the name of Edward Snowden. He was an American computer specialist who worked for CIA on various positions across the globe. Due to his computer specialisation, Snowden had access to intelligence data of CIA, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA). Being exposed to sensitive information, Snowden decided to leak it to the media, which he did in June 2013 (Greenwald, 2014). The outcome of this leak was the public discovery of the global surveillance programme between various US agencies and foreign governments aimed at spying and monitoring people both US citizens and foreigners (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). Over the next two years, various media agencies published various documents out of Snowden’s leaks demonstrating strategies on spying on people and categorising them according to the findings (Greenwald, 2014). The main argument in this issue was the conflict between government’s desire to eliminating potential security threats and citizens perception that their rights were violated and that the very institute of citizenship was undermined. Furthermore, this case has inflamed public arguments regarding surveillance.
The impact on people’s behaviour
In the immediate aftermath of global surveillance disclosure, the reaction of people to the event was mostly negative. In this regard, the previous ghosts of CIA spying on all and everyone were inflamed with proofs of surveillance conduct, which resulted in public expression of disapproval (Greenwald, 2014). At the initial stage, public perception was extremely negative and people wanted their governments to know that they disagreed with their means of using surveillance and the targets chosen for that surveillance. In this regard, various demonstrations and public events took place across the globe. People were wearing T-Shirts and were caring slogans asking for their governments to stop spying on them and protect their right to privacy (Wright & Kreissl, 2014).
The occasional demonstrations soon evolved into social movements opposing mass surveillance. The most famous include “Stop Watching Us”, “Restore the Fourth” and “The Day We Fight Back” (Zureik & Salter, 2013). The first two organisations oriented their attention on organising mass protests to the global surveillance program on memorable days or national holidays. Thus, they followed the classic route of the expression of mass disapproval of governmental actions. On the other hand, the last organisation decided to express disagreement through the means the surveillance was conducted – through the informational technologies. In this regard, “The Day We Fight Back” arranged a one-day global protest on the internet. More than 6,000 websites participated in this campaign and argued for the change of the American legislature to protect people’s privacy and foreign nationals (Zureik & Salter, 2013). Except for posting various slogans in support of this initiative on the participating web-sites, supporters of this initiative have also organised calls and numerous emails to the Members of the Congress (Zureik & Salter, 2013). Some of the social organisations took a different perspective on actions and decided to engage in a lawsuit against the corresponding agencies for their actions (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). Another way of protest was aimed at protecting the rights of Edward Snowden and change of his status in the USA. On the other hand, protection of his rights is not exactly the direct outcome of people’s reaction to the disclosure, but the attention of NGOs like Amnesty International to the protection of his human rights (Greenwald, 2014).
In general, it can be argued that the initial public reaction to the phenomenon of global surveillance was incredibly negative, and it was expressed in non-violent demonstrations and protests. The particular feature of these protests was that in most of the cases people were against the idea of their governments spying on them. In this regard, when protestants were asked whether they disapproved surveillance for the security reason or on foreign nationals, very often the answer was that protestants disapproved governmental surveillance over its citizens and not the foreigners (Zureik & Salter, 2013). In this regard, the main rationale for this perception is of psycho-social origin. From one perspective, people do not want to be under constant monitoring since they consider that the government has to right to enter their privacy. From another perspective, when a different person, an alien is being monitored than it is the matter of security and it is fine, since technically the foreigner is nit from this country and can pose a threat (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). In other words, this duality of perception is conditioned by human individualism and certain ego-centrism regarding privacy of one person in contrast to another, unknown person. Consequently, it can be argued that the overwhelming majority of the American and Western European population does not mind the idea of constant surveillance for security measures; they just have concerns regarding their privacy, which becomes vague with each day.
The initial reaction of people to the disclosure of the global surveillance was conditioned by shock and fear of long predicted and expected global governmental control over people and simple human desire to preserve one’s privacy (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). However, in terms of how the NSA mass surveillance has changed people’s behaviour is another question. Since the initial reaction to surveillance exposure was extremely negative, it could be expected that people would immediately take measure of securing their personal date and would change their mode of behaviour. In fact, the study of the Canadian Centre for International Governance “claimed that while 60% of internet users had heard of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, only 39% of those people had taken additional steps to protect their online privacy as a result” (Dredge, 2014).
These findings suggest that in terms of changes of digital behaviour and improvement of one’s internet privacy, surveillance scandal had effect on less than 40% of internet users. Consequently, the rest of 60% did not try to improve their privacy level and did not try to change their consequent internet behaviour. In this regard, the main rationale for the majority of people to remain their digital behaviour the same because they do not think that there is anything extraordinary in that behaviour for the government to conduct a surveillance over their actions (Zureik & Salter, 2013). Another reason for relatively stable online behaviour is that with each stage of digitalisation of human life, more and more restrictions on contents and actions are added in terms of one’s working and social environments. For instance, people no longer consider that prohibition of discussing their work on Facebook is a violation of their privacy or self-expression rights (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). They understand that it can harm company’s public profile and marketing image. So, it is acceptable for people to limit their freedom in expressing their opinion about work on Facebook for the sake of keeping job and functional relationship with management (Greenwald, 2014). Another aspect of this acceptance is through media and various shows that demonstrate how social networks can be used for profiling of one’s behaviour and personality traits. In this regard, people are simply used to it and accept it as a given part of the digital age.
In terms of the impact of NSA mass surveillance on physical human behaviour, it can be argued that to a certain extent it made people more cautious about what they do in public and where exactly they do it. On the other hand, the public awareness of surveillance occurred after 9/11 with the increase of cameras on the streets and strengthening of security. Although the exposure of global surveillance triggered certain self-conscious perception that surveillance can interfere one’ privacy, in general, American and Western European people are accustomed to cameras on the streets, public places, buses and subway stations (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). They might have concerns about their privacy, but the alternative to cameras is far worse. In this regard, the main reason people’s behaviour in the Western countries did not change much due to this scandal is because the lack of surveillance would mean an escalation of terrorist acts and criminal activity. Although it can be argued that these events still occur, the public perception of surveillance is that still decreases the number of these destructive events and keeps the treats relatively contained (Greenwald, 2014). In this regard, it can be argued that the fear of the alternatives make the general public more perceptive of constant surveillance and thinking of it in terms of benefits rather than limitations.
On the other hand, the mass surveillance and presence of numerous cameras changed human behaviour. Various categories of people stated that they actually feel safer under surveillance rather than in the places where there are no cameras (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). In this regard, the psychology of fear of threat dominates the discourse. When people know that there are cameras on streets, they know that someone is watching them, they know that criminals are likely to avoid being recorded on camera and then prosecuted. In other words, the change of behaviour occurs when criminals decide to act in the places where there are not cameras, and when ordinary people decide to walk where there are cameras in order to reduce the potential threat to a minimum (Greenwald, 2014). Thus, cameras and surveillance actually prevent crimes and contribute to the improvement of security. The great number of security cameras makes people feel aware of their behaviour and its social context that is secured by cameras. In this regard, cameras serve as extra means of imposing socially and legally desired norms of behaviour and a sense of security for people.
Pros and cons of surveillance
Irrespective of the outlined above discourse of how mass surveillance effected scandal affected people, there are still a few pros and cons to discuss. In terms of the negative implications of surveillance, it is often argued that it results in deterioration of mental health and trust issues among people (Greenwald, 2014). In this regard, it is suggested that being under constant observation and monitoring increase the level of stress and anxiety, decreases productivity and the level of self-control in the working place. Thus, the argument is that surveillance is damaging human mental health that then results in physical problems. The main rationale for this argument is the assumption that by the nature people are not accustomed to being under constant control and surveillance (Greenwald, 2014). From a psychological perspective, the constant pressure of social constraints and suppression of ego might result in deviant behaviour as a demonstration of one’s individualism and independence (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). However, this aspect refers mainly to the occasions of severe and constant surveillance systems of dictatorship regimes rather than cameras on the streets and ATMs in the Western countries (Zureik & Salter, 2013).
Another negative aspect of surveillance is that it creates mistrust between the public and the state. In this regard, people are likely to accept and encourage limited surveillance for the sake of security as it was outlined above. However, they are reluctant to become the target of that surveillance and turn into those “others” (Maras, 2012). Thus, when one’s liberty is violated the social contract is no longer functioning. The categorisation of “us” and “them” becomes conditioned not by law but by personal perception of right and wrong, which might result in further deviation of one’s behaviour (Wright & Kreissl, 2014). Another minus of surveillance is that it stimulates conformity that inevitably results in stagnation and thinking mode of the crowd. Thus, it might the overall social and human progress (Maras, 2012).
Except for the outlined cons of surveillance, it has certain benefits. The primary benefit is that it provides security and stability of social order. As it was already mentioned, surveillance prevents various crimes and antisocial behaviours from happening or enforces its punishment. In any case, it provides order, socially and legally acceptable behaviour, and individual consciousness of consequences of the deviant behaviour (Maras, 2012). Surveillance makes people feel safe and secured in their every-day routine. In this regard, people can be safer in two ways. From the one hand, the cameras and surveillance decrease criminal activity. On the other hand, from the global perspective, their presence reassures people that external threats are under control. After 9/11 and 7/7, people are more concerned with terrorist threat than with government conducting mass surveillance (Greenwald, 2014). The threat to one’s life and security is greater than to certain aspects of one’s privacy.
Overall, from all mentioned above it can be concluded that Edward Snowden’s disclosure of global surveillance resulted in the initial public protests against government’s violation of people’s privacy. However, this was the initial reaction which had to practical outcomes. Although people might be concerned with the level of their privacy and state intervention into it, the alternative to having surveillance is far worse than the issues of privacy. The social fear of outside threat of terrorism or interstate conflict makes surveillance a necessary evil that people are eager to accept in their everyday lives. This was demonstrated by the relatively little changes the disclosure of mass surveillance had on people’s behaviour.
Dredge,S. (2014, December 17). More people may be dodging NSA surveillance than you think – Open thread. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/dec/16/nsa-surveillance-dodge-open-thread.
Greenwald, G. (2014). No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. London: Metropolitan Books.
Maras, M. (2012). The social consequences of a mass surveillance measure: What happens when we become the ‘others’? International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 40 (2), 65-81.
Wright, D. & Kreissl, R. (2014). Surveillance in Europe. Oxon: Rutledge.
Zureik, E. & Salter, M. (2013). Global Surveillance Policing: Borders, Security, Identity. Devon: William Publishing.
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