Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide’ Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance

This isn't my post.  "Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide’ Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance" is by Moxie Marlinspike in Wired Magazine.  Hit the link and read the whole thing, it's worth your time. 

Here are a couple of key points.  The first sets up the second.
As James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and former defense attorney, notes in his excellent lecture on why it is never a good idea to talk to the police:
Estimates of the current size of the body of federal criminal law vary. It has been reported that the Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes. These laws are scattered in over 50 titles of the United States Code, encompassing roughly 27,000 pages. Worse yet, the statutory code sections often incorporate, by reference, the provisions and sanctions of administrative regulations promulgated by various regulatory agencies under congressional authorization. Estimates of how many such regulations exist are even less well settled, but the ABA thinks there are ”nearly 10,000.”
If the federal government can’t even count how many laws there are, what chance does an individual have of being certain that they are not acting in violation of one of them?
As Supreme Court Justice Breyer elaborates:
The complexity of modern federal criminal law, codified in several thousand sections of the United States Code and the virtually infinite variety of factual circumstances that might trigger an investigation into a possible violation of the law, make it difficult for anyone to know, in advance, just when a particular set of statements might later appear (to a prosecutor) to be relevant to some such investigation.
In short, you are probably in violation of several Federal laws and you don't know it.  How could you?  They're inane and shouldn't be on the books.

Now let's say the government has complete surveillance data on your life.  They don't bother to look through it because they have no reason to, so they're not bothering to bust you for having too small a lobster in your possession (no kidding, it's a federal law, even if it died of natural causes and you happened to pick it up on the beach).
Police already abuse the immense power they have, but if everyone’s every action were being monitored, and everyone technically violates some obscure law at some time, then punishment becomes purely selective. Those in power will essentially have what they need to punish anyone they’d like, whenever they choose, as if there were no rules at all.
To summarize, a surveillance state is a police state.  In Soviet Russia, they at least waited for a pretense, like your neighbor lying to them about you so she could get your apartment.  In surveillance America, once they have any reason to look at you, they can just sift back through all that collected data, charge you with crimes you didn't even know you committed and imprison you.  They don't even need to persecute you through the IRS (though they still will).  They can just jail you. 

"Obama would never do that!"  Okay, fine.  I don't agree, but I'll concede that point for now.  Do you trust every future administration for all of time?  I don't.

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