One Right Versus Another

In “Surveillance and the Corrosion of Internet Freedom,” Cynthia M. Wong referenced Hillary Clinton’s statement: “We recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.” When first considering the debate on internet activity, I thought, “The government has no right to monitor our activity on the internet! It is a violation of our privacy and our rights.” When you really think about it, we are weighing right to privacy with right to life. The United States supervises internet activity in order to monitor the activities of possible threats to the country’s citizens. This may sound a little extreme, but let us consider the following questions:

Will internet supervision be effective? “The Case for Internet Surveillance” by Daniel J. Gallington says that whether the government monitors or not is not the problem. The real issue is how they do it and if it is effective. The government needs to monitor in a way that is both effective and does not infringe on our rights. Wong also noted Rebecca Mackinnon: “Human history is a story of how unchecked power has always been abused, whatever good intentions those in power may hold at the beginning.” There needs to be a system of checks and balances where there are multiple authorities who regulate each other. If there is a good system, the people who do not present a threat will not be affected.

Is there not a way that supposable threats could find a way around the system? In Los Angeles, students were able to figure how to change the security settings for the school internet so they could access social media websites and stream music. I would not doubt that a person could find a way to keep the government from monitoring their activity. People who utilize the internet to plan or execute destructive activities will use it wisely.

Can we rest easy in this “cold comfort” as Wong describes? The government may be looking over our activities, but this should have no effect on us if we are not posing a threat. In simple terms, if freedom of privacy and expression are constitutional rights, then monitoring internet activity is a violation of our rights. It is easy to simply state this, but the actual issue is much more complex than this, so we must consider all sides and encounter a middle ground.


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