Big Tech and Surveillance

The "false trade-off" in Solove's words is also known as a false dichotomy. The public is misled into choosing one of two unappealing options when there could be other viable alternatives. Solove believes that the optimal solution may be to grant the government the ability to conduct surveillance under proper judicial oversight so there is accountability [1]. Such oversight will also prevent the government from overextending the surveillance program to include other individuals for which there is no probable cause, and also make sure the program is actually effective at preventing terrorism [2]. This would allow the general public to maintain their personal privacy while maintaining a reasonable level of national security.

Unlike Sebrinah, I believe that this argument is a lot less relevant today. I believe this argument was most relevant in the 2000s when the general public was reeling from the shock of terrorist attacks and were willing to accept extreme knee-jerk measures in return for public security. The PATRIOT act, passed shortly after 9/11 was superseded by the FREEDOM act which granted judicial oversight by the FISA court. As the decades pass, the public has become aware and less understanding of these intrusive actions through the Snowden leaks. The public is also becoming more aware of "security theater" and jokes and memes about the effectiveness of the TSA checks in airports are rife.

I believe an argument about the false trade-off between privacy/liberty and public health may be a more contemporary one. As the world is slowly recovering from the shock of COVID-19 and returning to normalcy, questions arise as to whether it was really necessary to track individual's movement and interactions to such an extent and whether it was really necessary for some countries to lockdown and prevent individuals from even leaving their homes.

[1] Daniel Solove, 'Daniel Solove: Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear?' (20 February 2014) accessed 13 March 2024.

[2] ibid.