Students, Profs Weigh Privacy Versus Security
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 02:09
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Boston College Eagle Political Society met in Gasson Hall to discuss a litany of issues along the axis of privacy and national security. Among the key topics were generational expectations for privacy as well as the potential needs for this information vis-a-vis the consequences for society as a whole.
Fewer than 20 people a year are killed in terrorist attacks domestically; however, it became clear from conversation participants that the current generation of BC students remain very open and permitting of government to look through our communications with the wider world. The question then posed by BC professor Peter Krause was aimed at framing the debate: “Is there a positive tradeoff in giving up varying degrees of privacy in the name of security when these concessions increasingly become rights we never get back?”
BC professor Jennifer Erickson also wanted the students to understand that, especially with regard to the recent NSA spying scandal, Eric Snowden, and WikiLeaks, “intelligence gathering can be political in how it’s used and how dots are connected. In that regard, globalization has blurred the geopolitical lines, and do we really know what we’re getting in return from information monitoring?”
Much of the debate among students pivoted around the Constitutional framework inasmuch as it guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” In the context of the 21st century and the myriad electronic forms of communication, notably email and Facebook, how then do we apply a modern interpretation to the words “papers” and “effects?”
Students repeatedly voiced confidence in the current guidelines set by Congress requiring a warrant from a federal judge to further investigate potential threats derived from data mining and suspicious patterns in electronic communications. Yet many also echoed sentiments pertaining to how cyber lives of today might affect and serve to inhibit future selves. The defining realization proved that citizens could no longer have an expectation of privacy on social media, as students understood these applications are part and parcel public forums that have been increasingly populated by private information.
As the discussion neared its conclusion, the crux of the argument boiled down to how we end up defining this “existential threat.” Krause urged students to contemplate the end-state of the U.S. and its people. “We know there will always be a situation in which an attack or threat exists,” he said. “But keep your eye on what you want this society to be … These people are dictating agenda and shaping a reactionary public policy. We’ve essentially become a tactical and reactive society, and in that regard we should not be pushed around by what other people are doing.”