In 2014, award-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald presented a compelling case for privacy at a TED Conference, dismantling the idea that “only people who are doing something wrong have a reason to hide.”
Why did Greenwald feel that message was important?
Two years earlier, in 2012, American intelligence contractor Edward Snowmen reached out to Greenwald, offering top secret National Security Agencvy (NSA) documents that its secret mass surveillance network. In 2013, Greenwald’s stories at The Guardian sparked an international conversation on national security versus privacy.
The opening sentence of his first article reads, “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret order issued in April.”
A year later, as the nation continued to grapple with ethical questions around Snowden’s actions and the revelations of NSA spying on ordinary Americans, Greenwald presented at the TED Conference, saying that privacy is a necessity for authentic human living whereas “[T]he United States and its partners, unbeknownst to the entire world, has converted the internet… into an unprecedented zone of mass, indiscriminate surveillance.”
Why do it? Power, perhaps. He pointed out that “There are dozens of psychological studies that prove that when somebody knows that they might be watched, the behavior they engage in is vastly more conformist and compliant.”
“Mass surveillance creates a prison in the mind,” he said that is “much more effective than brute force could ever be.”
In other words, mass surveillance — an encroachment upon individual privacy whereby your normal, daily actions can be documented for no specific reason — is a means by which a powerful entity can control a large population.
As he put it,
A society in which people can be monitored at all times is a society that breeds conformity and obedience and submission, which is why every tyrant, the most overt to the most subtle, craves that system.Douglas Crawford, “Glenn Greenwald: Why privacy matters” at ProPrivacy (October 16, 2014)
Privacy is important, Greenwald argues, because true freedom requires it.
Now that we know so much more about the data collection efforts of social media sites, Greenwald’s TED talk is just as relevant now as it was eight years ago.
You can watch his entire presentation here:
Surveillance is now an even bigger business for government than it was when Snowden made headlines. China, for instance, is now a mass surveillance state equipped with 200 million cameras and state-of-the-art facial recognition technology. And the United States has been following in its footsteps.
At least in the West, we can argue against it and perhaps cut it back a bit.
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