Tag: Right to Privacy

Government Surveillance Is Terribly Threatening

By Teagan Fair | United States

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” This is a notorious quote by Benjamin Franklin, useful in many arguments advocating for liberty. Commonly, gun advocates use it to oppose gun control However, there are many other situations where this quote is appropriate. For example, it is also pertinent while advocating against government surveillance. Supposedly, surveillance is “purchasing” a little bit of temporary safety: a very small amount, in trade for our liberty.

An Insignificant Statistic

A common argument in favor of government surveillance is that it supposedly protects us from terrorists. But according to Business Insider, since 9/11, only six Americans have died per year from Islamic terrorists, both foreign and domestic. The article also provides a handy chart comparing the probability of this to other causes of death.

BI Graphics_Odds of Dying

As you can see, there are many obscure causes of death that are far more probable. So no, this should not be a concern of the general public in the first place. In any other situation, such an insignificant number would be laughable.

UN: U.S. Government Surveillance Is Symbolic

While talking about the practicality of surveillance, even the UN has stated that it is essentially a show of gesture-politics, rather than result-oriented. Or in other words, the UN states that government surveillance is based more on symbolism and symbolic gestures rather than a good outcome. And as for the ‘results’ surveillance does come with:

“[The FBI general counsel] defined as useful those [leads] that made a substantive contribution to identifying a terrorist, or identifying a potential confidential informant. Just 1.2 percent of them fit that category.”

Thus, surveillance does not protect us from terrorists nearly as much as supporters would like you to believe. Yet, there are still some clear detriments that surveillance allows for.

Authoritarian Regimes

For example, many oppressive regimes use mass surveillance on their citizens, much like in the U.S. In many cases, they claim to care for security and the good of the people. But some countries that practice this include North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba. Clearly, the good of the people can be a lie.

In the modern day, in fact, mass surveillance systems are quite popular among authoritarian regimes. Regardless of whether you would classify the U.S. as authoritarian, its government has certainly increased intervention in the lives of citizens. Surely, this in itself is a concerning realization.

Going beyond simple ineffectiveness and harmful effects, it is also worth examining the morals of government surveillance. Although we hear surveillance is for our own good, many Americans would disagree. In fact, 57% say it is wrong for the government to monitor its own citizens.

A common argument for surveillance is ‘if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.’

Funny. This quote sounds awfully familiar. It’s almost like it was propaganda for another authoritarian regime. Yes, that’s right: Nazi Minister Joseph Goebbels used the line to pacify Germans in 1933.

Similar Situations

Edward Snowden, a man notorious for exposing NSA records, also has an intriguing quote against government surveillance. He states the following: “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

He is spot on with this quote; the ‘nothing to hide’ argument is deeply flawed.

Protecting your information from the government has a number of parallels. Would you want your private texts, emails and phone calls to be available to co-workers you don’t know? No, of course not. The majority of people would agree that this is an invasion of privacy.

Government action is hardly different. One of the only things dissimilar, in fact, is that the government can act upon what you do and say, potentially harming you for nonviolent action. This is far more dangerous. Obviously, many of us get weirded out when somebody leans over our shoulder to view our texts. This is what is happening in our government, but at mass levels.

The Right to Privacy

You also do not need a reason to exercise a right in order for it to exist. For example, the 1st Amendment protects the right to assemble, even if you do not feel you need it. Perhaps you will never feel the need to assemble publicly. However, this does not give the state the right to take that ability away from you. The same goes for privacy. Whether or not you ‘need’ privacy is irrelevant: it is always wrong to take it away.

Our government is stripping our liberties, especially privacy. For what? Essentially nothing. If anything, government surveillance allows the state to take further control over our lives. Perhaps it’s time to get more serious about our right to privacy and take a stand.

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Edward Snowden’s New App for Guarding Your Laptop

By Emily Merrell | USA

Edward Snowden and a team of collaborators from the Freedom Of The Press Association have teamed up to develop an app called Haven. Haven is now available in the Google Play store and uses the software on a spare phone to detect movement around a room where you may have a personal belonging. This app is especially meant to help journalists, activists, and whistleblowers.

Imagine you’re a freelance journalist becoming a whistleblower. You do research and try to expose government secrets that you believe the people should know. However, you have a strong chance of police coming in to track down your laptop. Haven uses all the software on a phone including the camera, microphone, motion sense, etc. to detect movement in a room. It logs everything it senses. With this app, you will definitely want to use a cheap spare phone. When the phone senses movement it will notify you on your main device.

The app can send encrypted alerts to your phone through signal or it can be monitored through Tor. Haven does not back up information to the cloud and does not transmit data to third parties. You can also choose not to have notifications. Edward Snowden explains how Haven works here. Haven is also free and in its early stages of develop, the Freedom of the Press Association would love for any contributors (designers/programmers)  to help by visiting their Github page or by donating on their donation page.

Let’s create a safe reality for whistleblowers and journalists in today’s authoritarian society. Download Haven on Google Play or F-Droid today.

Your Bitcoin Wallet May No Longer Be Private

By James Sweet III | USA

Cryptocurrencies, the most notable being Bitcoin, are the best way to put your money into private, digital assets. Bitcoin has been skyrocketing lately, with the rate, at the time this article was written, being $10,909 for 1 Bitcoin. Investments in Bitcoin continue for many reasons. However, a common reason among holders of Bitcoin is that Bitcoin provides a hideaway from the failing, centralized United States and the Federal Reserve. The government, being the party crashers that they are, wishes to stop this, and is already beginning the process of invading your privacy yet again.

Currently, Anti-Money Laundering laws do not extend to cryptocurrencies. Senate Bill 1241 wishes to change this. The bill would include “an issuer, redeemer, or cashier of prepaid access devices, digital currency, or any digital exchanger or tumbler of digital currency” under the definition of a “financial institution”. By doing so, cryptocurrencies would be subjected to the same regulation and oversight as stated in current Anti-Money Laundering laws that actual financial institutions face. By doing so, this may worry some investors and holders of cryptocurrencies.

You know how it is illegal to not disclose your financial assets? Well, it will become illegal to not disclose your digital assets if this bill passes. Scary, right? Don’t fret, though. The short title of this bill? The “Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017”. By proposing a bill that seems to protect American assets, as well as stopping the financing of terrorists, supporters of this bill seem like good people. However, it is still not known how by not disclosing your private assets, one is funding terrorists or committing counterfeit. After all, it requires almost an impossible amount of computing power to counterfeit cryptocurrencies, as you do not give the actual cryptocurrency, unlike US Dollars, where you give a physical copy. As every client has a copy of the list of transactions in the Blockchain, it is useless to attempt to counterfeit.

What exactly is the government protecting us from? The author of the bill, Senator Chuck Grassley, seems to think from terrorists. How? Who knows. It seems very likely that this is just an attempt by the government to look into, yet again, another part of our lives. The bill currently resides with the Senate Judicial Committee, with the latest action, hearings,  being on November 28th. If this bill does indeed pass the Committee, one can only hope that a brave senator can stop this bill. Only time will tell the fate of the privacy of cryptocurrencies.

To read Senate Bill 1241, click here.

Privacy is Under Attack in the West. It Needs Defending.

By Addie Mae Villas | USA

Just like our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, privacy is something that should never be infringed upon or sacrificed. U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis once called it “the right to be left alone.” but in this day of age, our right of confidentiality and seclusion from the government is under attack. With the infringement of this right happening more and more, we need to realize that contentment with this violation is very detrimental.

Let’s take a look at Edward Snowden’s leak of data that blatantly showed that our government was spying and collecting data illegally. This leak opened the eyes of people around the world and perpetrated the age of not trusting the government. Although this leak showed the injustice, lies, and corruption of the government, many American people, 64% according to U.S. News, hold an unfavorable opinion of Edward Snowden. This is supplemented by a poll from Pew Research which shows that 21% of people polled from the ages of 18-29 believed “Americans need to be willing to give up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism” and the percentage of people that believed that increased with age. Although 21% is not a lot of people who believe we should sacrifice privacy for “protection”, it still means that the thought of sacrificing privacy is still believed.The right to privacy is just like the right to free speech. We wouldn’t take away the right to free speech just because it could harm someone’s feelings or expose the truth. Just like we should never take away the right of privacy in hypothetical situations.

Currently, in Germany, privacy is being thrown out the window. Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière wants the German Security Agencies to be able to eavesdrop on homes, cars, and other technology. This is clearly a violation of human rights as privacy is listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in article 12. By allowing Germany to go through with this policy, it will only cause more governments to follow suit and have even more government overreach. The breach of privacy can also be seen with mattress company Casper and software company NaviStone which are able to gather information from users of their website. These instances only go to show that privacy is being degraded more and more than ever before. But, what makes it worse is that it often goes unnoticed and goes without a concern from the populous.

Privacy should never be infringed upon. Although there is no direct right in the U.S. Constitution to privacy, the fourth amendment provides a link to the privacy of our own property. Stated before, the U.N. has stated that the right of privacy is a human right. By standing by and allowing the major governmental overreach that is occurring every day, we are only allowing this problem to be expanded even more. We must protect this right just the same as we protect any other unwavering rights.

New Law Allows Searches of DC, Virginia, Maryland Homes Without A Warrant

By Max Bibeau | USA


A new bill was passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Trump on August 22nd that compromises homeowner’s right to privacy in certain parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.

The law in question is a simple law regarding the foundation of a Metrorail Safety Commission. The bill cites the millions of people “the safety of whom is paramount” as the primary reason for the creation of a new Commission. The commission would have basic oversight over the Metrorail, to ensure that it meets safety standards.

One clause buried in the seemingly harmless legislation appears to be some cause for concern. The clause lies under the “Powers” section of the bill, and reads:

“(b) Enter upon the WMATA Rail System and, upon reasonable notice and a finding by the chief executive officer that a need exists, upon any lands, waters, and premises adjacent to the WMATA Rail System, including, without limitation, property owned or occupied by the federal government, for the purpose of making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing as the Commission may deem necessary to carry out the purposes of this MSC Compact, and such entry shall not be deemed a trespass. The Commission shall make reasonable reimbursement for any actual damage resulting to any such adjacent lands, waters, and premises as a result of such activities;”

Essentially, any homes that the chief executive officer of the Commission deems that a “need exists” anywhere near the Rail System, can be warrantlessly searched. This power is given to the commission “without limitations,” and can be used “as the Commission may deem necessary.” This vague phrasing is leaving a few representatives in shock, such as a Republican Representative from Michigan, Justin Amash. Amash took to Twitter to express his shock.

In the vote held on whether or not to pass the legislation, 399 Representatives voted yea. Only 5 voted nay. 1.1% of House Representatives voted against the piece of legislation. Those who voted nay were Representatives Amash, Jones, Massie, Mooney, and Sanford, all of whom are Republicans.

You can read the full text of the bill HERE.

You can find more information on the Congressional Vote HERE.

Max Bibeau is a Senior Editor for 71 Republic. You can contact him through email at [email protected], or follow him on Instagram with the handle @_maxbibeau.