Your privacy and your security are friends, not enemies

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

Benjamin Franklin

Reality is weird. Seemingly paradoxical. If you spend money you’ll get more money. No? You’ve never heard the phrase “speculate to accumulate”? If you expend energy you’ll have more energy. No? Does Mo Farah expend more energy than you? Andy Murray? Which of you has more energy? Does having a lock on your front door inhibit your freedom? Or does it, in fact, allow a space in which you can be even more free?

The fact is that reality is full of examples where doing the opposite of what you’d think actually produces the outcome you’d want. Choc full.

Now think of places where liberty is not so strong - are these places that you are more secure? Would you be more secure in the Middle East than in the UK? Would you be more secure in Russia than in America? More secure in Nigeria, Somalia, or Mali than in France? More secure in Mexico, Bolivia or Columbia than Germany or Sweden or Denmark? North Korea or South? Burma or Thailand? Take a look at this map and you can see at a glance.

Time after time reality shows that it is greater personal freedom, not less, that coincides with greater personal safety and security. Liberty and security go hand in hand, but those places that stress greater security and less liberty are, somehow, more dangerous. The only conclusion is that liberty is a causative factor in security.

That’s not entirely true

There is greater security in these places, greater security for a chosen few. The rest live in fear and without rights or recourse to justice. They cannot speak freely, they cannot be open in deed or mind. There is a wasteland of fear and broken lives surrounding a fortress, like peasant villages surrounding a medieval castle, complete with hopeless peasants and pampered tyrant.

But the principle still stands, increased liberty goes hand in hand with security. These tyrants have learned, however, that active security measures should protect their liberty, not be used as an excuse to diminish itIt should be used only to diminish others’ liberty… if you’re of an authoritarian or totalitarian disposition. Another lesson those of us who don’t like or want to be pushed around could learn from them.. In that way, they know something that many of us in more free societies seem to have forgotten.

Forgotten to such an extent that the British government is currently pushing through the Investigatory Powers Bill, a bill that removes rights and privacy from the people as if we were children with porn and drugs, or villains with nefarious plots, simultaneously infantilising and criminalising the entire population. As a satirical device it is profound. As a suggestion for actual rule, it is absurd.

But what about jihadists and their iPhones?

It’s a good question. How will we be able to stop terrorists from committing mass murder with automatic rifles and bombs in backpacks on buses? How could we stop them before they commit these atrocities if not by having access to private communication in its totality?

Targeting pre-crime

We could try something that not many are doing now - challenging their ideas. Before someone becomes a jihadist they have also become a believer, a believer who ascribes to certain ideas and philosophies and literal readings of the Qur’an. They’ve gone to meetings, listened to talks, spent time considering things in an echo chamber provided by other narrow minded adherents. Breaking in to that echo chamber and providing a challenging narrative would yield more security for infidels and kafirs like you and me, and remove the reason given for waving goodbye to privacy.

We’d also have to try things like not selling weapons to rogue and totalitarian states; not invading other countries for spurious reasons; not allowing any Tom, Dick or Harry onto the mainland without thorough checks; not calling those who challenge religious authority, ideology, and behaviour racist; not allowing universities to become places where Islamist ideology is allowed to go unchallenged. You know, the obvious stuff.

More targeting, not less

Everyone understands that sometimes the police or the secret services are going to need to target an individual or individuals, but they have the powers to do that. Anyone who’s watched television knows about warrants and wiretaps, understands that it would be helpful to have police listen to the phone calls of serious criminals, for GCHQ to watch the communications of suspected spies and murderous villains, so let them do it. Let them go to a judge, let them set up a team, let them install cameras and bugs and wiretaps and intercept emails and messages and snapchats. Let them set up honey pots, spies, informers and traps, fake postmen, fake shoes, fake watches, fake newsThere’s already plenty of fake news around though. But all of that is targeted, all of that is about focused, intense vigilance and observation. It is not the equivalent of what they want to do now, sending a trawler with a giant net into sea of information, sweeping up everything and anything it can, profiling everyone, watching everything, suspecting everyone and anyone, all under the auspices of your best interests.

Indeed, your security depends on your liberty. The only things in desperate need of more security, though, are your rights.

Added on:
Last updated: