Special issue of the New Scientist: “Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety,” Benjamin Franklin once said, “deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” But if Franklin were alive today, where would he draw the line? Is the freedom to send an encrypted text message essential? How about the right to keep our browsing history private? What is the sweet spot between our need to be left alone and our desire to keep potential criminals from communicating in secret?
In an age where fear of terrorism is high in the public consciousness, governments are likely to err on the side of safety. Over the past decade, the authorities have been pushing for – and getting – greater powers of surveillance than they have ever had, all in the name of national security.
The downsides are not immediately obvious. After all, you might think you have nothing to hide. But most of us have perfectly legal secrets we’d rather someone else didn’t see. And although the chances of the authorities turning up to take you away in a black SUV on the basis of your WhatsApp messages are small in free societies, the chances of insurance companies raising your premiums are not….(More)”.