Friday, October 17, 2008

Impress Your Professor : Orwellian Databases?

There was an article in the BBC online yesterday about Great Britain's plans to create a centralized database to track all internet traffic and cell phone conversations. It's being condemned by some as "Orwellian." Some have pointed out that the security risks involved in gathering and storing such information far outweigh the benefits -- what if someone hacked into that database? The counterargument is that it would be an invaluable way to track terrorist activity and without it we will not be safe.

Which leads me to wonder, how much does our free and open society depend on its members being "men (and women) of good will?" Totally and completely, I think. The minute even one person not of good will, so to speak, enters the free and open society and does something with intent to cause harm to other members, the freedom of all its members is compromised -- the need for security will always compromise privacy. As long as there is a reasonable amount of privacy, everything is fine -- but a measure like this huge database seems to me to tip the scales in the opposite direction.

Security? or Privacy? Which is more important? Or does there have to be a dichotomy? Why can't we have both? Can we live with the idea that it might be harder or even impossible to track down someone plotting a terrorist attack without a database of their cell phone records and every website they ever visited, because it is even more valuable to know that OUR every cell/digital move is not being tracked and watched?

I think I can, at least for now.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. --Ben Franklin