The Privacy Paradox: Privacy, Surveillance, and Encryption
MetadataShow full item record
In most privacy studies, privacy is assumed to be antithetical to surveillance. However, some critics have warned that privacy-based criticisms may actually facilitate surveillance by narrowing the terms of the debate in such a way as to render these critiques ineffective. That being said, we do not yet have data that shows whether privacy claims were used in the past to legitimate government surveillance. This paper addresses that gap by analyzing claims made over one of the U.S.’s most controversial surveillance issues: government control over encryption technologies. A review of Congressional hearings and statements on the Congressional Record (n=112) reveals that from 1993-99, public debates were dominated by a market liberalization discourse in which participants supported encryption deregulation as a way to protect privacy from criminal intrusion in market transactions. Also playing a role was a strong skepticism toward government power and a preference for markets as managers of crime prevention. Challenged by these critiques, lawmakers withdrew regulatory proposals and spent the following decade working quietly with private firms. Current debates about the FBI’s “Going Dark” initiative demonstrate the market liberalization discourse has been fully accepted to the point that it is presumed, rather than debated. Instead, current discussions focus on court orders, rather than market policy. These findings show the expansion of privacy for consumers and entrepreneurs has in fact been successfully used to justify the contraction of privacy from law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
- Sociology