Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, a group dedicated to defend and protect the right to free expression both in Canada and around the world, recently released a poll which is quite telling of how many of us view government surveillance.
The poll asked Canadian citizens what they would do if they found out that the government was spying on them. A whopping 60% said that they would do nothing.
While that number sounds dramatic, it probably also sounds realistic to most of us. After all, how many of us changed our computer habits after Edward Snowden leaked information about how the NSA was bulk-collecting all of our email?
If you’re reading this, it most likely means that you own a computer and have the luxury of some free time. Odds are that you live a comfortable, middle-class life. And if you’re white, chances are you have never been targeted for extra scrutiny by law enforcement for any reason.
Sometimes saying “I have nothing to hide” really means “I have nothing to fear because I’m not a target.”
Maybe it’s time to take a long, hard look at that attitude.
Maybe You Do Have Something to Hide
We’ve already detailed that many if not most of us have something we probably don’t want the government to know about. The Justice Department couldn’t even figure out how many federal laws exist, so how are you so sure that you are in compliance with all of them?
And what if you’re simply doing something slightly unseemly? General Petraeus was fired from his job as director of the FBI when the NSA discovered emails he was exchanging with his mistress. If the director of the FBI isn’t safe from unwanted government surveillance, how much hope do you have of maintaining your privacy?
Remember, it’s not just the government doing all this data collection. Silicon Valley companies have been doing it for years.
The point isn’t whether you are having an affair or whether or not you are committing any crimes. The point is that we are living in an era of massive surveillance, both by the government and Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook.
Is your right to privacy something to take for granted if you are white and middle class, and thus not a likely target for government surveillance? Or is the basic right to privacy for all a fundamental right that we all should be concerned about and fight for?
It’s worth considering.