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Security and Privacy

posted by:Marc Rotenberg // 11:30 PM // July 20, 2005 // Core Concepts: language and labels

Following on Ian's comments below about CCTV and London, it might be worth considering the relationship between two key concepts - security and privacy. Daniel Solove and I coauthor a textbook on privacy law which we revised this year. We had an exchange about a section of the book that discusses the relationship between privacy and security. Dan was of the opinion that there is a trade-off between the two, but I believe that security is a form of privacy. To support my position, I went back to the text of the Fourth Amendment which says:

The right of the people to be *secure* in their persons, houses,
papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon
probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly
describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be

Notice the use of the word "secure" in the opening clause. (Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms follows a similar formula: "Everyone has the right to be *secure* against unreasonable search or seizure."). Now here is the interesting point: the key clauses in the US Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms view "security" as the right to be protected against unreasonable searches or seizures *by one's own government.* Returning to the cameras in London (or in Washington or in Ottawa), it is at least worth considering whether we advance "security" by allowing the government to engage in routine surveillance of the public.

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another of the canadian provisions in the charter or rights and freedoms is section 7, which guarantees "the right to life, liberty, and *security* of the person."

this provision has been used to protect 'decisional privacy' (a la roe v wade).

i tend to side with marc over dan on this and must confess that i practically cringe every time i hear bruce schneier characterize privacy in terms of a "trade off" with security.

while there is no doubt that law enforcement officials very often makes security choices that have negative implications for privacy, the metaphor of balancing privacy vs security that is so often used in privacy discourse is frequently unproductive if not misleading.

in another context, alex cameron and i have argued that it is useful to think of privacy not merely as the right of an individual in clash with some public goal but, as *itself*, a broader-based public interest (http://anonequity.org/files/Nymity_p2p_&_ISPs%20_(CIPLIT_book)kerr-cameron.doc)

Posted by: ian kerr at July 21, 2005 06:11 AM

Privacy also provides security in a number of other ways. Firstly, privacy is the only effective defense against stalking. If you're anonymous, it's much harder for a stalker to find where you live and work. A similar argument can be made for battered spouses who flee. Undercover cops also gain a lot from this form of anonymity.

Secondly, privacy (in the form of control over personal data about you) protects against identity theft. Admittedly, the credit grantors are doing their best to return to the days when they mailed out credit cards unsolicited, with a little bit of 'risk transferrence' thrown in. But if 'easy credit' wasn't built around 'personal data,' id theft/fraud-by-impersonation would be a lot easier.

Posted by: Adam Shostack at July 21, 2005 09:49 AM

I agree that privacy is best understood as a type of security -- a kind of security (or integrity, or, to use Warren & Brandeis's phrase, "immunity") of the person. (My own stab at the issue, construed in terms of locating the moral right to privacy within a framework of more fundamental moral rights, can be found in my "The Right to Privacy and the Security of the Person," in the Works in Progress section of the site.) That being said, it's not obvious to me that this resolves the debate with Solove. After all, there are presumably other types of personal security, and Solove could reasonably be understood as claiming that we must consider tradeoffs between privacy as one type of personal security and other types of personal security.

My objection is not so much to the talk of tradeoffs itself (I think it's quite clear that there are tradeoffs between privacy and other forms of personal security, just as there are tradeoffs between, say, freedom of expression and other liberties), but rather to the tendency to see such tradeoffs simply in terms competing *interests* and not in terms of conflicting *rights*. It makes a difference.

Posted by: David Matheson at July 21, 2005 10:41 AM

Videos are watching me
But dat is not stopping me
Let dem cum wid dem authority
An dem science and technology,
Dem can't get de Reggae out me head.
(Zephaniah, 1996:20)

I took this quote from a fairly interesting book I have been reading on surveillance; Loving Big Brother: Performance, Privacy and Surveillance Space, by John McGrath. He argues that the "ideology of crime prevention" that favors surveillance as enhancement of security does not in fact prevent crime, although it may deter criminal behaviour and assist the police in apprehending criminals after the fact. What I think is important here is that even without the promise of crime prevention people are willing to be surveilled, not because they are in fact more secure but because they FEEL more secure. Why does surveillance make individuals feel this way? Why are we producing individuals who are so comfortable with the idea of surveillance? Is it the fetishization of surveillance on the internet? or the 'surveillance as entertainment' epidemic that is sweeping our nations?
What McGrath importantly highlights in his work is that "Surveillance...changes the ways we feel and behave within the spaces that are surveyed. We might even say that it changes the spaces themselves." Surveillance has an enormous impact on the self. It is not a disinterested, passive viewing machine. I think this is the message that theorists need to get out about surveillance so people can begin to understand the real impact surveillance has on their lives.

If I may add just one more witty remark from this work:
"It has been feasibly suggested that CCTV cameras are a fitting, or even necessary, response to worries about crime that are largely fuelled not be direct experience, but by crime portrayed on television. According to this argument we need cameras to protect us from television crime."

Posted by: Krystal Kreye at July 22, 2005 02:12 PM

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