Since the emergence of large-scale terrorism, the limitations of public security have been the subject of much controversy at the current time. To preserve everyone’s safety, the findings are as follows: mass surveillance is overgrowing and is detrimental to the protection of our private sphere. Associations defending citizens' rights and freedoms, such as the World NGO, are worried about the expansion of the surveillance resources available and the legislation to put them in place. Since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 caused by the four suicide-attacks in the US, national security has become more and more invasive. Between this security aimed at combating terrorism, there are we, as citizens, who are gradually losing the fundamental rights of our freedoms.

Is there a middle line that would allow us to remain anonymous without compromising public safety?

1) To Counter Terrorism?

In a terrorism’s fight context, we can recall the long legal battle between the American federal police and Apple regarding the unblocking of Syed Farook’s iPhone 5C, one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino attack in December 2015. Since the phone’s PIN code cannot be retrieved, the FBI required the large firm to develop software to access the personal information contained in the phone. Apple refuses their demand stating that this would be an infringement of its customers' civil liberties.

Not derogating from their respective points of view, this battle went all the way to the Supreme Court. During his hearing, James Comey, head of the FBI, said that the primary purpose is to protect the security of Americans against the terrorist threat. In its defense, Apple emphasizes the essential foundation of its brand, namely the protection of its customers' privacy in the name of civil liberties.

The large firm also expressed concern about the consequences of what could happen if this “Pandora’s box” were to be opened, which could have highly damaging implications concerning human rights and, in particular, physical and financial security. This arm wrestling finally came to an end, when the FBI achieved its goals without Apple’s help.

2) Is Mass Surveillance Mandatory?

This legal battle echoes Snowden’s revelations in 2013 and has triggered a real collective awakening. As this is a matter of privacy and public order (against the backdrop of the fight against terrorism), this case has provoked a reaction from all over the world, so that the world’s most significant economic actors, including the United Nations, have felt concerned. Messaging platforms such as Whatsapp have implemented end-to-end encryption to ensure that users' exchanges are as secure as possible. The CNIL has also reported the many complaints received and confirms:

The willingness of citizens to take back their rights and to benefit from greater transparency and security.” – CNIL (French Data Protection Agency)

The observation is as follows: Forcing technology companies to provide encryption keys weakens software protocols by creating backdoors, which can be exploited by law enforcement but also by criminal groups, exposing us to higher risk. The issue of protecting public order is as important as the protection of privacy. How could one of these issues be given priority over the other? But, is it possible to protect these two worlds without compromising either?

They who can give up essential liberty, to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

This statement now sounds like a warning. Preserving public order in no way authorizes state disorder, that goes without saying! Therefore, violating our privacy would be tantamount to interfering with our most essential freedom. We cannot lose this fundamental right, although the maintenance of public order is also a necessity for the exercise of freedoms. A real distinction must be made between information relating to public security and very personal information collected by the government and the various agencies, in which case we risk permanently losing the only values we still have today.

3) Conclusion

What are the real challenges of mass surveillance? In the past, when an individual was suspected of suspicious facts or dubious organizations, security would search around that individual to confuse him and his accomplices. Today, the approach is completely reversed. Authorities are monitoring everyone to identify the deviant person. Is this an effective method of searching for a potential needle in a hayloft? The question is a legitimate one. Scientists, as well as leading university professors, raise the issue of the usefulness of this mass monitoring. Here is what one of them said:

If we assume that a mass surveillance system like the NSA’s is 70% effective (which means that this system will find 70% of terrorists in the United States), then by applying Bayes’s theorem, the probability that a person targeted by the NSA is actually a terrorist is barely 2.28%, which is very close to 0, and therefore unnecessary”. – Olivier Ertzscheid

These statements make us think about the real reasons for this security because of its proven ineffectiveness time and time again. Snowden even said at a conference:

That there is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate espionage and law enforcement, where individuals are targeted by reasonable and individualized suspicion - and those massive surveillance programs that place entire populations under a blind eye and preserve copies forever. These programs are not about terrorism, but about economic espionage, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. It’s a question of power. Surveillance is about control. It is about power over moments of vulnerability, in any life, whether it is that of a criminal or that of an ordinary person”. – Edward Snowden

Based on these statements, and now, with full knowledge of the facts, we let you think about what is the most substantial thing to do for you at 🤔.

Cheers Internet, feel free to clap & follow our stories, see you next time. 🤫

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📷 by Geralt