This brilliant essay by a cryptographer makes the case for the moral responsibility of science and engineers.
The framing determines what one thinks it is about:
– Surveillance-studies framing, surveillance is power, nothing new but technology has given unprecedented power for monitoring, the Internet is being transformed to a facilitator for totalitarianism, is linked to cyber war and conventional war – surveillance and assassination by drones are one technical ecosystem. The law enforcement narrative is wrong to position privacy as an individual good when it is , just as much a social good. It is equally wrong to regard privacy and security as conflicting values, as privacy enhanced sercurity as often as rubs against it. Personal exploration will diminish in a world of mass surveillance. Cryptography offers some hope.
“U.S. universities were thoroughly infiltrated with informants: selected students, faculty, staff, and administrators would report to an extensive network of FBI handlers on anything political going on on campus. The surveillance of dissent became an institutional pillar for maintaining political order.” p 27
A O Scott speaks of “epistemological vertigo” when reviewing CitizenFour, the Academy Award winning documentary about Snowden by Laura Poitras, “What do we know about what is known about us? Who knows it? Can we trust them? p. 29
“Ultimately, I’m not much interested in individual grievances over privacy; I am far more concerned with what surveillance does to society and human rights. Totalized surveillance vastly diminishes the possibility of effective political dissent. And without dissent, social progress is unlikely.” Consider the burglary in 1971 of the FBI office in Media Pennsylvania (that revealed COINTELPRO) which included a feisty physics professor – would likely never have been done given surveillance we now live under