Why the Surveillance State is Dangerous

NewImage Pierre Lemieux has an excellent article on the dangers of the surveillance state. He uses China and the USA as prime examples. 

Many people don’t mind the Surveillance State. Some like to be surveilled because it shows that somebody is paying attention to them. Others think that no information about them can be incriminating. Mark Reid, the city manager of Bluffdale, Utah, where a large NSA (National Security Agency) data center was being built, did not worry: “If someone reads my emails,” he said, “they’ll be pretty bored.” James Watson, winner of a Nobel Prize for his work on the structure of DNA, argued that compulsory DNA fingerprinting would only “take away our liberty to commit crime.”

Last week’s issue of The Economist describes one incarnation of the Surveillance State. It happens in China and, more particularly, in Xinjiang province, home of the Uighurs, an ethnic minority that also has the drawbacks of being Muslim and not especially enlightened. The indignity to which the Chinese state submits them are not more enlightened. The Uighurs can be tightly controlled because they are closely surveilled:ID cards tied to massive databases, constant video-surveillance and checkpoints, house-to-house inspections, a “convenience police station” for every square territory of 500 inhabitants (in the town of Hotan), government agents “adopted” by families, etc. This surveillance allows the authorities to rank individuals by degree of “trustworthiness,” and to send to reeducation camps those deemed unreliable.

All countries are “democratic” in the sense that their rulers need the consent, at least implicit, of some plurality of the population. Surveillance is also dangerous in formal democracies. One reason is that yesterday’s extreme cases often become today’s standard practice. Who ever thought that Americans would be, like mere Europeans, searched at “checkpoints,” that many searches would be rechristened “inspections,” or that border agents would have the right to search smartphones or other deviceswithout a warrant, at the rate of 30,000 times a year (including searches of citizens’ devices)? The NSA has been spying on millions of Americans. Until about 2010, according to Wall Street Journal data, the FBI had more DNA records than the Chinese government (which started later in the competition), although the collection is proceeding so fast in China that America doesn’t “win” the race anymore; per capita, the two countries are now about equal.

Read more.

Why the Surveillance State is Dangerous – Econlib

by Pierre Lemieux …surveillance and control go hand in hand. Control may grow as a consequence of surveillance. Let’s define the Surveillance State as a state that aims at preventive, everyday, mass surveillance. Many people don’t mind the Surveillance State. Some like to be surveilled because it shows that somebody is paying attention to them.