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Privacy or Safety: Issues of Government Surveillance

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Have you ever been told about the government and how they listen and watch everything you do? Ever been told on how it’s for your good’ or ‘it prevents crime’? It’s obvious that those people believe that government surveillance is effective and reduces theft, however, research shows that government surveillance does more harm than good.

One reason why the government should not survey its citizens is that the government is untrustworthy. In an article called “Our Sneaky Surveillance State” by Cyrus Farivar, an investigative tech reporter at NBC News, he states in September of 2012, “The San Leandro City Council first discovered that its own Police Department had license plate readers- five years after they’ve been deployed.” This sparks a lot of questions. Who enlightened them? Who exactly installed them? Why were they never informed? What else are they hiding? This is far from the first time the government has invaded citizen’s privacy without court approval. Because back in 1952, Harry S. Truman founded the Nation Security Agency. NSA, the same USA agency that can listen to phone calls and collect American’s internet activity without approval. Recently, the United States filed a lawsuit against Edward Snowden, a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), who published a book entitled Permanent Record in violation of the non-disclosure agreements he signed with both CIA and NSA. “This matter is being handled by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division and the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.” (The United States Departments of Justice) This shows that some people are ignorant, even people who work for something like the NSA. It would be at high-risk if a job similar to this fell into the wrong hands. And you can’t exclude that in an article called ‘The Case for Internet Surveillance’ by Daniel J. Gallington, a senior policy and program advisor states that much of the gear that acquires cities and countries come from federal grants, and often well-intentioned police chiefs and other officials come before city councils or county supervisors with some neutral requests to approve a chunk of money in the name of fighting terrorism. But the lawmakers have little to no idea what exactly they’re approving and don’t ask how the gear will be put to use. This is super suspicious considering that that gear is a big deal and they should be more cautious. Most people are coming to the conclusion that they’re hiding something once again since they won’t even inform the lawmakers.

Another reason why the government should not survey its citizens is that surveillance does more bad than good. Government surveillance sweeps gather more bystanders than subjects. In an analysis of the information gathered through FISA 702, “The number of non targeted communications are 10 times greater than the data that the government actually wants to analyze from a suspect.” (National Security) To add, individuals can be charged without any knowledge of their participation. This disadvantage comes to us courtesy of the Upstream program from the NSA. The government scans the information that flows over the interest to see if there is information that flows over the internet to see if there is information about foreign intelligence targets. If you speak of a political figure to a friend who lives overseas, then that could be enough to trigger a review of your conversation.

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My last piece of evidence to support my argument is that the government places innocent people under investigation. Even if the data collected through government surveillance creates a reasonable suspicion of conduct for the targeted person, there may not be a guarantee that the individual is guilty. When we increase the amount of coverage that’s in society, then we begin to restrict the rights of those who don’t deserve security interventions.

Some argue to say that surveillance helps solve crimes and utilizing surveillance gives us a boost for catching criminals, but, if you read articles about criminals before they committed the crime, anyone could connect the dots in hindsight. When we take a look back at the various acts of violence that were captured through surveillance, it is noticed that many of the perpetrators tend to appear on watch lists because of the sheer amount of data collected. When Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was placed on a terrorist watch list before attacking the city during the marathon, it was much easier to see the behavioral patterns and actions that led to the event after the fact than it was to predict what his actions would be. This issue creates a problem for government surveillance. You can always see clearly in retrospect. That means we tend to learn more when we start to connect the dots instead of trying to prevent problems in real-time.

In some cases, government surveillance’s use is authorized to keep people safe and the technology could help save lives. However, the difficulty with this issue is that governments tend to collect and keep information so that it becomes helpful in a variety of ways. Instead of keeping people safe, the data transitions to keeping specific people in power. Which is a selfish selfish decision. In conclusion, this is why the government should not survey its citizens.

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Privacy or Safety: Issues of Government Surveillance. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Privacy or Safety: Issues of Government Surveillance.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Privacy or Safety: Issues of Government Surveillance. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 Mar. 2024].
Privacy or Safety: Issues of Government Surveillance [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from:
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