Benjamin Franklin once said: “ They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.“ Today, we may agree or disagree with Franklin’s quote, but we do have one thing in common: just as Franklin, we are still seeing freedom vs. security as a zero-sum game – one where one can gain only at the expense of another and where the two cannot possibly coexist. However, this is not necessarily the case. There does not have to be necessarily a trade-off between privacy and security; the proper balance is the one where neither security nor privacy suffers from both of them being present in our daily lives.
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To illustrate how security and privacy can coexist, we can use student campus as an example. At American University in Bulgaria, Skaptopara campus is equipped with security cameras in every hallway, including basement, main lobby and studying lobbies on every floor. If asked, many students would say that the current situation gives them enough sense of security without hurting their privacy. They feel secure because they can leave their things around for a short period of time without having to fear they will be stolen, yet, since all the surveiled areas are considered public, not private, they do not necessarily fear that their privacy is endangered.
Suppose now that situation changes and that AUBG administration decides to put surveilance cameras in every room in addition to those in the hallways in order to increase security on campus. Would the students feel as if their privacy is hurt? Most definitely. Campus is already lively place as it is, and students can usually have their private time only while in the room. But, will it really increase security as thought by administration? Probably not. The rooms are already secure enough since only residents can enter with their own cards, and every door can be seen on cameras that are already in the hallway.In this case, students would be asked to give up their privacy in order to get additional security. However, this is only an ostensible assumption. The truth is that students already have both, without feeling that one is hurting another.
Similarly to AUBG administration, governments sometimes do not have clear overview of the effectiveness of their efforts to increase security. Although they are most of the time aware that this will impact their citizens’ privacy, they fail to see that it will not really have a significant effect on their security. We can take airport security as an example. In 2003, commercial planes in the US have been updated with bulletproof cockpit doors. This measure has made both cabin crew and passengers more secure, since hijacking was now substantially more difficult. Yet, at the same time, it did not affect anyone’s privacy, in fact, it has probably additionally increased pilot’s privacy.
Meanwhile, another airport measure has been undertaken by the US government: the secure flight program, which checks whether travelers are on the government’s no-fly list. The problem that oftenly occurs with this program is that there are many poeple who, just by having the same name as somebody on the list, are denied flying or stay on hold for a very long period of time. At the same time, people who are on the no-fly list can use identity theft or forge the documents and trick the system. So, does this program increase security? Possibly, but not necessarily, since there are ways to overcome it. Yet, this program severely hurts passenger’s privacy by collecting their personal information and preventing them from flying freely to preferred destinations.
A good policy that...