As usual, Bruce Schneier puts it more eloquently than I can:
…it’s precisely why, when people in their business are in charge of government, it becomes a police state. If privacy and security really were a zero-sum game, we would have seen mass immigration into the former East Germany and modern-day China. While it’s true that police states like those have less street crime, no one argues that their citizens are fundamentally more secure.
That is spot on. And it’s something that I’ve been trying to get more people to understand. In this post-9/11 world, everyone is telling us to be afraid of this, that, and the other thing, and we are then being told that in order to make ourselves “safe” we need to let people into our homes, our businesses, and our private lives, and that it’s OK, they’re trustworthy, just trust us on this one, folks, we won’t screw anything up for you. Just be good little sheep and get in line.
And by and large, we’ve been good little sheep, and we’ve gotten in line. And believe it or not, we’re headed for the slaughter.
But it’s not even a this vs. that debate here – being secure doesn’t mean we have to let government into our homes and personal lives. Once again, let me quote Bruce:
The debate isn’t security versus privacy. It’s liberty versus control.
You can see it in comments by government officials: “Privacy no longer can mean anonymity,” says Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligence. “Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.” Did you catch that? You’re expected to give up control of your privacy to others, who — presumably — get to decide how much of it you deserve. That’s what loss of liberty looks like.
What we really aught to be scared of is not each other, or vague “terrorist threats,” but instead this creeping encroachment into our personal liberties. If anything, that should be what keeps us awake at night.
It’s what keeps me awake at night, anyway.