Live as if Someone is Always Watching You: Integrating Policy and Technology in the New World of Electronic Surveillance


Ben Wills

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The development and deployment of electronic surveillance technology in the post-9/11 world poses a political challenge to balance the imperative of security with the Constitutional mandate of government to protect civil liberties. With security at a premium, the implementation of such technologies has proceeded relatively unhindered by concern for individual privacy rights; as a result, we are now faced with surveillance systems that have are more intrusive than ever before. For example, technologies such as data mining are now employed by the National Security Agency, marketing firms and insurance companies. The widespread use of these potentially invasive technologies has aroused controversy over what constitutes the right to privacy and how to weigh that right when it comes to instituting policy. Justification for surveillance technology has largely relied on political tension; yet while many consider the push for heightened national security a legitimate political obligation--and necessary to combat terrorism--it is imperative that policy makers likewise be charged with safeguarding the right to privacy. Protecting privacy while combating terrorism requires a careful and deliberate integration of policy and technology. Ensuring national security and protecting the right to privacy are not mutually exclusive goals. I will argue that effective policy must include both, and that there are possibilities for tempering the development of surveillance technology with constitutional constraints.


Kory Schaff




Ford Research Endowment

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