Privacy vs security when it comes to digital data collection

Posted By on June 13, 2013

I’ve delayed opining on the latest NSA and whistleblower story over the last couple of days because I can see both sides and like most Americans , value the liberty our constitution protects, yet expect our government to protect us. It is a frustratingly difficult conundrum we face … or I should say, those we elect and “delegate that responsibility” in a digital information age. The balance is not easy since we want our government to thwart terrorism and espionage in order to protect our nation, edwardsnowdenbut don’t want to leave the door open for those who abuse power – which unfortunately is the history of our species time and time again.

One of my primary concerns is that we’ve allowed private contractors and their employees (ie. Booz Allen and Edward Snowden) the access to increasing amounts of personal data under direction of the NAS and the guise of being necessary for national security. Some information we give willingly, some we are required give up (employment, banking and financial, health records, etc) and other information is being archived allegedly behind the scenes in large data centers. In the current case, the whistleblower (Snowden) left his position and headed overseas to tell his story to a foreign press which supposedly put U.S. assets at risk and which can be viewed as a treasonous act. At the same time, it is understandable that he might have a distrust of his superiors or even the U.S. press … and fears being silenced (a very real possibility). He alleged that personal data is of U.S. citizens is being collected and that private data could be being monitored if American citizens are suspected for whatever reason. The big concern is that government and politically connected public or private employees now have access to unbelievable amounts of information which can be legally (court order) or illegally used for whatever motive. Very concerning should the wrong person or coordinated group or party be in power.

utah-data-center-build
Intelligence Community Comprehensive Nation Cybersecutity Initiative Data Center

From where I stand, there is plenty of evidence that our bureaucracy is not capable of acting responsibly when it comes to wielding power over private information … the recent IRS scandal among others come to mind. On top of the "recent" problems, we live in a world where the history of government officials abuse power. Thankfully our forefathers recognized this and created the U.S. Constitution limiting the powers of the federal government over the citizenry. For over 200 years this for the most part prevent our government from abusing power over citizens. Still even with “a constitution” some countries still failed to protect their people and in Europe brought the rise of the Nazi Party. It is as hopeful to believe the power-checked NSA data will be handled responsibly and only accessed for the purposes of combatting internal terrorism, but abused by politicians is unfortunately the more likely scenario (again, look at the IRS scandal or just think about the history lesson in the video below).

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Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.