The dangers of surveillance – it’s bad, but why?

Surveillance is everywhere, from street corner cameras to the subject of books and movies. “We talk a lot about why surveillance is bad, but we don’t really know why,” says Neil Richards, JD, privacy law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “We only have a vague intuition about it, which is why courts don’t protect it. We know we don’t like it, and that it has something to do with privacy, but beyond that, the details can be fuzzy.”


Richards says that there are two real dangers of surveillance.
“It menaces our intellectual privacy and it gives the watcher a power advantage over the watched, which can be used for blackmail, persuasion, or discrimination,” he says.

Richards’ new article on the topic, “The Danger of Surveillance,” will be published in the next issue of the Harvard Law Review.

Richards says that there are four principles that U.S. law should embody to avoid the dangers of surveillance:

“First, we must recognize that surveillance transcends the public-private divide,” he says.

“Even if we are ultimately more concerned with government surveillance, any solution must grapple with the complex relationships between government and corporate watchers.

“Second, we must recognize that secret surveillance is illegitimate, and prohibit the creation of any domestic surveillance programs whose existence is secret.

“Third, we should recognize that total surveillance is illegitimate and reject the idea that it is acceptable for the government to record all Internet activity without authorization.

“Fourth, we must recognize that surveillance is harmful and should be considered as such in the courts.”

News of the article’s publication has been trending on Twitter. You can read the complete article at: