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Finding the Balance between Privacy and Security in America
In the today’s world, there is a dilemma of relations between privacy and national security. Privacy is the inalienable right of every human being (White House, 2015). National security is the basis of existence and development of any country. The government should control its citizens for the country’s security. However, if the government passes the brink of privacy to assure national security, it can lead to a breach of human rights. Thus, the thesis of this research is the following: human rights and privacy always prevail over national security. To confirm this thesis, it is necessary to explore the relation between privacy and security, first of all analyzing information and description of these two concepts.
Information and Description about Privacy and National Security
The government protects human rights providing security. It is implemented in the framework of the concept of national security. The term “national security” was used for the first time in 1904 in a letter to the US President Theodore Roosevelt to the Congress. In 1947, the US Congress passed a law about national security, according to which the National Security Council was created (Bisson, 2015).
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In this context, privacy is the sphere of vital interests of life, emotions, and affections of an individual detached from other social spheres. In European countries, words derived from the Latin “privatus” are used. According to the National Security Strategy, it means a certain quality of life determined by a real possibility of humans to carry out autonomy and freedom in the sphere of life, which may be called private (“Sustaining U.S. global leadership: Priorities for 21 century defense,” 2012). In the literal sense, privacy means solitude and secrecy. It is used for the expression of the human right to have autonomy and freedom in private life and the right to be protected from invasion of the authorities or any non-governmental organizations and government institutions for all purposes. It can be seen that even definition of the concept of privacy and security should be given within the frame of the latter (White House, 2015).
In addition, the right to privacy can show humanity in the society in relation to fundamental human rights (White House, 2015). National interests are derivatives of the needs of citizens and their value orientations. They are provided by economic, political, social, military, and other organizations of the state, spiritual, moral, and intellectual potential of the society. Components of national interests of the state are declared installations contained in the constitutional law and fundamental rules that express special significance of certain spiritual and material benefits for the existence and development of the nation. The content of values is stipulated with achievements of the society (Bisson, 2015).
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If national interests are derivatives of the needs of citizens, privacy is unique since it includes such human rights as: personal liberty, protection from violence and discrimination, and protection against arbitrary power. It ensures minimum conditions for personal development. However, the privacy right is clearly limited in its scope to the private sphere, which is beyond production and social activities whereby people enjoy maximum freedom and all rights.
In each case, the content of this right is individual. The private sphere is the sphere of everyday life, which depends on the individual’s private decisions. The object of protection of the right is thoughts and feelings of a person and person’s inner world, which is impossible to evaluate and measure exhaustively. Therefore, this right protects not only against physical abuse and violence, but also guards tranquility, creating a zone of psychological safety. Information about private and family life is inviolable because the secret is for the preservation of freedom and autonomy.
At the same time, the hierarchy of national interests and the system determines national goals (White House, 2015). However, national targets include the right to privacy. Key concepts of this term are freedom, dignity, individuality, autonomy, privacy, and anonymity. In accordance with the European Court of Human Rights, this right includes a negative obligation, i.e. the state’s obligation to refrain from interfering in certain areas, and a positive obligation, which implies adoption of state-specific measures aimed at ensuring respect for private life. The right to privacy is included in the concept of human rights. In the United States, the Bill of Rights equates human rights to the civil ones (White House, 2015).
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Thus, the balance between these concepts is influenced by the society and government. Privacy, as an inherent feature, is a right of any human being (Bisson, 2015). The main objective of this right is to ensure human dignity, freedom, autonomy, and development of opportunity. The main objective of the national security is to protect citizens. Thus, if privacy is one of the components of human rights, national security should protect it. Therefore, privacy takes precedence over security. However, its relation to counter terrorism should be described as well.
Relation to the Subject of Homeland Security/ Counter Terrorism
Terrorism is one of the main issues of the modern world. Terrorism is among main subjects of homeland security because it has two main dimensions: a threat of the global nature (terrorist organizations like al-Qaida, the Taliban), which affects global trends and demands constant work in terms of foreign policy and security strategy (Bisson, 2015). Extremism is another form of manifestation of terrorism (Blanchard, 2014). It means terrorist actions organized by one person or a group of people with extreme radical views (Bisson, 2015). Fight against terrorism within the framework of national security is conventionally divided into a struggle on a global scale with various groups, movements, and domestic extremism. Operations against al-Qaeda and removing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan are successful and contribute to the discharge of tension between terrorist organizations and the United States. Individuals with radical views remain a threat to the society. According to statistics, most radical perpetrators of such crimes are illegal residents.
Terrorism is a modern threat to the security of the society and violations of privacy. It is actively represented in the US as the country is one of the world leaders. Both types of terrorism are subjects of work on the national security. However, since security has been developed by the government in order to prevent harm to the rights of the people, it is improper to breach other rights like privacy when defending the rights of the population on security. Therefore, privacy takes precedence over security. At the same time, various institutional structures ensuring maintenance of these rights should be characterized.
Involvement of Governments, State Agencies, Private Sectors, and Community Members
The USA, one of the world leaders, is a country where human rights are paramount. The US has a comprehensive system for maintenance of national security and privacy, which includes governments, state agencies, private sectors, and community members. At the same time, security is increasingly engaging governments and state agencies as private sectors and community members a priori have less authority and act to ensure privacy.
Main services of the national security are the Ministry of Defense, the National Security Agency, the FBI, and the CIA. After the September 11 tragedy, the system of protection agencies has strengthened its security work. The government has created the Homeland Security Council (HSC) aimed at advising and assisting the President in developing a strategy of internal security. Consequently, all external and internal efforts to fight terrorism are coordinated by relevant committees in the structures of HSC and the NSC.
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The Department of Homeland Security (the DHS) brings together most agencies and offices. The main task of the Department is warning about and prevention of terrorist attacks inside the United States, as well as reduction of vulnerability of countries to minimize the damage and help in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in the United States. At the same time, investigation of terrorist acts and ensuring of the rights of the US community (including privacy) correspond to relevant law enforcement authorities levels (federal, state, municipal).
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Combined groups of interagency coordination have been established on the basis of coordination of military structures in the headquarters of various levels (“Sustaining U.S. global leadership: Priorities for 21 century defense,” 2012). The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has a database for national security and protection of human rights (“Sustaining U.S. global leadership: Priorities for 21 century defense,” 2012).
Thus, a sufficiently broad structure of agencies and departments, private sectors, and community members allows the government to control the situation in the country, prevent many terrorist attacks, and protect human rights, including privacy.
Negative and Positive Issues among Governments, Agencies, and Citizens
A famous American leader once said that simple use of military force like regular forces, special forces, or the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) would not completely ensure safety without violating the right to privacy. Military strength is used not only to ensure safety of the country. The key to finding the balance between privacy and security consists in work in the information sphere because the United States has been actively pursuing the information policy to address conditions for the emergence of extremism and terrorism.
A special role in ensuring the national security of the country is devoted to information security. It can give the possibility to ensure national security. As a result, the state begins to develop preventive measures that are an extension of the work in the information field. Thanks to the timely receipt of information, it is possible to prevent acts of terrorism and to save lives of future victims and special service crews.
However, information is always in the personal dimension of a people. To get information, agencies should penetrate personal systems. Therefore, the government has increased the maximum amount of personal information that it requires from citizens in various spheres of life. Thus, the dilemma of human security / privacy has emerged.
Laws and regulations of the United States in the field of information security are in agreement in terms of the right of citizens for information and privacy of their private lives. The principle of national information security infrastructure is carried out by avoiding physical or other unwanted interference and limiting access to sensitive or “important” information. Normative legal regulation is aimed at ensuring a balance of interests of individuals, society, and the state. Guarantee of the information security on the legal level does not prevent collision of the national security with privacy rights of the individual. Depth of the problem can be demonstrated with two facts relating to dissemination of information, which have led to an international scandal.
The first of these facts is the story about the leak of information from Julian Assange. After the publication of certain evidence, especially video, an international scandal broke out. Another confirmation of the criminal activities relating to privacy carried out by the US secret services was information unveiled by Edward Snowden, an American technical expert and a former CIA and National Security Agency worker. In early June of 2013, Snowden sent classified information to The Guardian and The Washington Post about the NSA’s surveillance and gathering of intelligence information from communications between citizens of many countries with the help of existing information and communication networks, including information about the project PRISM (Archick, 2014).
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The PRISM Project is a US government program and a set of activities undertaken to ensure mass covert collection of information transmitted via telecommunication networks adopted by the US National Security Agency (NSA). According to estimates in 2014, the information collection system of the NSA intercepted and recorded about 1.7 billion phone calls and e-mails and about 5 billion records and movements of mobile phone users around the world daily (Archick, 2014). As a result of the disclosure of information about the system PRISM, the Internet has seen a surge of interest of fixed users to open encryption technologies for storing and transmitting data.
The American society took these news about perceived encroachment on their private information with a negative attitude (“Sustaining U.S. global leadership: Priorities for 21 century defense,” 2012). In the US federal courts, people have been filed several lawsuits demanding to invalidate collection of personal data by the US intelligence agencies. One of the suits has been filed by an influential human rights organization “American Civil Liberties Union”. Google has decided to start testing encryption of user files stored on one of its services. This measure is intended to prevent the intelligence services from getting access to personal information by the intelligence services (“Sustaining U.S. global leadership: Priorities for 21 century defense,” 2012).
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Thus, the system of preventive practices in the field of information security has many advantages: it allows preventing attacks, saves lives of citizens, and increases the level of national security. The downside of this policy is the use of personal data and listening to mobile phones, which has angered the population. This is due to a violation of privacy, which shows preference for privacy over security.
My Own Reactions to and Feelings about the Information
The paradox of the modern liberal civilization relating to freedom and security of an individual is becoming increasingly dependent on the state. Its pressure on individuals continues to grow, which can be explained by new advanced information technologies and systems that pose a threat to privacy in general.
In my opinion, there is no doubt that there is a need for development and implementation of a new paradigm of security. It is possible to take into account opinions of the minority of the population that is capable of such actions, considering that current challenges and terrorism in particular force the government to be very careful and try to reveal threats in advance. Their opinion states that citizens of the United States should contribute to the fight against terrorism and to the protection of security, resigning to a violation of privacy. However, I believe that such position will cause a negative reaction of the majority of the population. After receiving such information, citizens have formed a negative attitude to intrusive actions of the government. I believe that such actions violate their human right to privacy. I condemn such actions and I wish that the government could change its methods of preventive counter-terrorism. The national security system is made to ensure protection of citizens. Legislation and regulation should be among methods used for the protection of privacy in the XXIst century and security must be ensured without violating privacy (White House, 2015).
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Thus, the security dilemma of the individual and the state is that the distinction between public and private becomes very difficult and this contributes to legitimate recapture of freedom by the state from the individual (White House, 2015). A part of the population is ready to accept government’s intervention in privacy in order to combat terrorism, but I agree that any information received within the scope of privacy is unacceptable. Therefore, permissible and possible suggestions to improve existing policies should be made.
Suggestions to Make More Successful Existing Policies and Procedures
Federal and state governments should enact laws that would require the police to obtain permission for tracking only in special cases. The authorities may adopt laws requiring government agencies to obtain a permit on the basis of clearly stated reasons.
The Congress has two bills in this respect. The first one is the act of geolocation privacy and oversight proposed by Senators Ron Weiden and Mark Kirk (Hope, 2011). The bill requires government agencies to obtain permission to track location of a phone. The second bill is a proposal of Senator Patrick Lee to supplement the Act about Electronic Communications of 1986, which allows the government to secretly monitor e-mails of people. This bill requires a permit for surveillance in real time, but does not prohibit from obtaining the movement history (White House, 2015).
It is necessary to create a permanent federal regulatory agency whose duty would be to protect privacy. It could be used:
- to restrain the government in any actions that violate privacy of citizens and exercise at the governmental level verification of new federal programs for possible violations of privacy for their implementation;
- to implement the few existing US laws about privacy;
- to become a custodian of integrity and freedom of the individual in the business world; show businesses how to ensure privacy and at the same time make a profit;
- to serve as the Ombudsman of the American public, trying to rein in the worst extremes.
It is estimated that creation of such an agency today will cost less than $5 million (Hope, 2011). Some activists of privacy have ridiculed the idea of using the government to guarantee privacy, accusing it of violations of privacy. It is true and for this reason it is necessary to use a legislative solution.
Thus, the government can take positive and effective steps in the field of privacy. In particular, the government can change development of technologies that affect privacy as it has been done by governments in Europe (Hope, 2011). The USA is a country that is governed by laws and human rights are of utmost importance there. Hence, adoption of laws and public authorities will help to draw the line between national security and privacy.
Privacy is among inherent human rights. At the same time, national security has been created with the aim to protect all rights of citizens. It means that it includes the privacy right, which should be protected by security. At the same time, terrorism is the main challenge to the national security and a dangerous threat of the modern world, which is significant in the United States. The government has built a system of agencies engaged in the fight against terrorism to ensure safety. The state has developed preventive methods to avoid activity monitoring, collection, and analysis of intelligence data. These actions have resulted in violation of the right to privacy of the population. Most US citizens have a negative attitude to interference of the government with privacy. Such activity has crossed the line and violated privacy, which shows the need to improve existing policies and procedures. Thus, human rights and privacy prevail over national security, which confirms the thesis put forward above.
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