Before we discovered the extent of the US government's surveillance under Prism, which collects and stores data about our phone usage and actually keeps the entire contents of much (most? all?) of our emails and online chats and posts, corporate America was collecting data about our online adventures and shopping habits with a mind to more effectively marketing to us. 

While the latter may feel creepy and seem offensive, it at least can put before us products and services we are actually interested in. 

Compromising our privacy does, without doubt, solve some crimes and prevent some terror attacks. But when does giving up this privacy stop being worth it? We can always use the "If it saves one person's life" argument, but that argument may not hold as much water as it seems. At some point, trading some lives for keeping some privacy might be worth it.

Just like in designing cars. You can make a safer car but each improvement makes the car more expensive, so there have to be trade-offs. What's the point, after all, of designing and building a perfectly safe car nobody can afford? 

So, is giving up privacy a good thing, and if so how much?

What steps could each of us take to preserve much, most, or all of our privacy, and how practical are those steps?

Tags: Prism, crime, privacy, terrorism

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One thing that needs to be done, but would take some effort, would be to incorporate end-to-end encryption on things like emails, etc. The capability has been available for years, but it needs to be built-in and to require as little effort as possible to be adopted widely.

The general public is NOT going to switch OS's anytime soon. You can forget that right now. If you want to do it, go ahead, but generally speaking, and for the imaginable future, they will be using one of The Big Three: 1) Microsoft's Windows, 2) Apple's OS, or, increasingly, 3) Google's Android.

I personally have no qualms about the mere storage of the data for some reasonable period of time with access to it controlled by some legitimate judicial procedure. As you may know, even in the less secretive public sector, things like getting search warrants and the processes of grand juries aren't privy to the general public and are carried on in secret.

If they can aid in thwarting another 9-11 attack or worse, that is probably a good thing, and as I've heard more than once, "If you're going to find a needle in a haystack, first of all you need a haystack."

As usual the government has got this situation completely backwards. What needs to come first is greater transparency in government. This would bring a greater trust in government as it is far far easier to get away with shit behind a veil of secrecy. Now once their is a greater trust in government most people would be less fazed about this sort of program.

My main problem with this current situation is the simple fact that history has shown time and time again that it will not take any  government long to abuse such power when it is hidden in secrecy. Even in america's history you only need to look back 30 odd  years to find something eerily portentous of what is happening today.Church comittee

Its funny how they found it completely unacceptable that the government was spying on all their mail during the middle of the cold war and near the end of  the Vietnam war . And yet nowdays many people would consider an utterly desperate Al-qeada threat enough to warrant a far greater intrusion of privacy.

But, Rj, if we can only fight terrorism with methods that can't be abused, what is left?

Is it that much better to fight terrorists with methods hidden behind so much secrecy that they are gauranteed  to be abused in the near future?

And seriously but a similiar though far lesser power was not deemed neccesary to fight one war where you guys where having your asses kicked , even though you were also in the middle of the cold war at the same time. It is now sadly ironic to see so many of the current generation petrified of a few desperate terrorists that they will happily throw these rights away

Is it that much better to fight terrorists with methods hidden behind so much secrecy that they are gauranteed  to be abused in the near future?

Oh? How are abuses "guaranteed"? Who is the guarantor?

It is now sadly ironic to see so many of the current generation petrified of a few desperate terrorists that they will happily throw these rights away

Well, they don't accept your analysis so they don't view it the same way as you.

"Oh? How are abuses "guaranteed"? Who is the guarantor?"

History and human nature. But maybe if we hope and pray really really hard, this time it will all be different .

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

-Albert Einstein
"Well, they don't accept your analysis so they don't view it the same way as you."
I know they don't view it the same way as me and my humble opinion is that  they are idiots. Anyway where are you trying to go with this line of reasoning? post modernism where everything is subjective?

Things happen differently all the time without benefit of prayer or expectation.

Telling people they are idiots is a well know way to be unpersuasive.

"Things happen differently all the time without benefit of prayer or expectation."

Ahh great. So should i sign you up for communism? Now i know history has shown time and time again that communism does not work due to human nature but who knows, maybe this time it will all be different?

"Telling people they are idiots is a well know way to be unpersuasive."

Funny that, i thought i was actually being admirably diplomatic in my answer here . Especially since the technical scientific term to describe peoples reaction to the terrorism "threat" is bat shit crazy.

Now lets be honest here.It is well known and there have been tons of scientific research showing that the way humans  asses  non immediate unlikely threats is often fundamentally irrational. We have certain inbuilt thought procceses and heuristics wich cause us to judge threats not on emperical data but on erronous emotive gut feelings. These are known as cognitive biases and there have beenmore than 100 of these identified to date.

Biases in judgement and decision making

"A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences of other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input. An individual’s construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behaviour in the social world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality"

Rationally you know what should terrify  you far more than terrorists? Getting into a car, crossing the road, baths, stairs, fast food, smokers, bees, policeman, prescription drugs , global warming and even getting struck by lightning.

Take 9/11 and how in the aftermath lots of people judged flying too dangerous and instead elected to drive instead. Where the rational facts show driving is literally 3 or 4  orders of magnitude more likely to kill you than fatal airline accidents and terrorism on planes combined. This is like having a family member who never smoked dying of lung cancer and so then deciding to start smoking a pack a day to protect you from dying of lung cancer.

Yes, the time may not have been right for Communism. And who knows what would have happened 

It's not crazy to want to keep 9-11 type attacks from escalating or becoming a regular occurrence. 

Why do you assume that a desire to do something about terrorism arises from a personal fear of being in a terrorist attack rather than a desire simply to prevent more attacks no matter whom they affect? People understand that terrorism of the 9-11 variety is very localized and that they are very unlikely to be in the locale where the attack takes place. Rather, it comes from an urge to protect the country.

"Yes, the time may not have been right for Communism. And who knows what would have happened "

and the time for mass surveilance is also not yet right. The correct time for it is when our governments have earned our trust through far greater transparency. Unfortunately our governments current definition of transparency is not letting us see what is going on at all.

"It's not crazy to want to keep 9-11 type attacks from escalating or becoming a regular occurrence. "

I agree with you. The crazy part though was the utterly disproportianate and arguably often  counter effective response to something that when looked at objectively  is far less of a problem than thousands of other things we tend not to pay even a fraction of the same attention to.

"Why do you assume that a desire to do something about terrorism arises from a personal fear of being in a terrorist attack rather than a desire simply to prevent more attacks no matter whom they affect?People understand that terrorism of the 9-11 variety is very localized and that they are very unlikely to be in the locale where the attack takes place. Rather, it comes from an urge to protect the country."

Ahh , so the factual evidence of many people deciding to rather drive than take airline flights  after 9/11 as they erronously judged air flights more dangerous than driving means nothing? There is also the fact that most of what has been happening in our war on terrorism is blatantly driving by public fear not public altruism. God but we can see just what a fight you are having in america to institute basic health care for the poor and yet you will try and convince me that  this effort against terrorism is because people really really care about one another? Pull the other one, it has got bells on it.

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