The tension between personal privacy and the state’s desire to investigate its citizens has been an issue for centuries. Think men in red coats and powdered wigs barging into homes with the King’s blessing.
In the modern era, privacy advocates and, to varying degrees, the larger public have been troubled by government surveillance going back at least to the 1950s and the Red Scare. Through the decades, semi-secret programs such as the FBI’s Carnivore and the intercontinental ECHELON have raised serious concerns.
And then there are the revelations disclosed by Edward Snowden that governments have access to a mind boggling array of data, using backdoors and taps—even going so far as to weaken security standards in order to collect personal data.
Despite the Snowden leaks and ensuing outrage, governments around the globe have doubled down and are seeking even greater powers of surveillance.
In the United States, a proposed law would require companies like Apple and Google to decrypt devices on demand for law enforcement. The UK is expected to spend billions on a new national session-logging system. Last year, France implemented a controversial law allowing authorities to monitor phone calls and email traffic, and intercept data between ISPs and users. A recent report found that nearly every Latin American country either uses or has expressed interest in using surveillance software from the infamous Hacking Team. The list goes on and on.
There are those, of course, who argue that such measures are necessary to protect the public from criminal behavior, especially terrorism.
Based on our conversations in /p, it seems devs don’t really buy that. In fact, government surveillance is one of the top issues that /p members cite when they join the community (that doesn’t mean everyone has to agree). And so we’re dedicating a week to the topic.
Welcome to Government Surveillance Week. Let’s take the next few days to dive deep, have frank discussions and even a little fun. Also, expect a special guest or two.