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Sample Argumentative Essay on Politics: Privacy versus Security
Security and privacy are important aspects that define the quality of life of a country’s citizens. Security ensures that each citizen is safe from foreign threats while privacy allows individuals to exercise their basic rights. While the two concepts provide different benefits, individuals often define the relationship between the two as inverse. This led to the debate of whether the concept of security is more important than privacy and vice versa. Some experts believe that privacy is more important as it is an integral factor to liberty while others argue that security must become a priority to safeguard a country’s interest. This argumentative essay will discuss that it is preferable to trade privacy for enhanced security to protect the public from digital and physical crimes, monitor potential terrorist activities, and allow the government to manage other national threats.
Definition of Security and Privacy
In the debate between security and privacy, security refers to the public’s protection from threats. It includes security from crimes and the protection of public health, finances, possessions, occupation, and organization members (What is Public Safety, 2021). In the context of national security, it refers to freedom from physical and biological threats (Sætra, 2022). Security focuses on ensuring the well-being of a country’s citizens and preventing any type of harm. It is an essential aspect of any society as it allows the public to live without the fear of danger.
On the other hand, privacy refers to citizens’ personal space. It is a state or a domain that contains personal information that a government cannot access (DeCew, 2018). Merriam-Webster further defines it as a state of seclusion away from unauthorized intrusion. Similar to security, privacy is an integral part of any society as it allows the public to exercise their freedom and have possessions that they own. Individuals may associate privacy with liberty as it provides a space where the government may not impose its authority. Despite this, it is important to understand that both security and privacy have their merits.
As mentioned earlier, many consider the relationship between the two concepts as inverse. Increasing security may require trading privacy while enhancing privacy may lead to vulnerable security. According to Bambauer (2013), security limits privacy options while privacy limits the implementation of security. For example, security and surveillance systems dictate the privacy option of individuals. A surveillance system may subject an individual to constant monitoring which can affect their behavior. In contrast, privacy sets limitations to these security systems to avoid intrusion. Privacy rules and laws disable the government and other organizations to acquire personal information from citizens.
Edward Snowden’s case is a topic that is significant to the argument regarding privacy versus security. The case revolved around Edward Snowden, a former IT systems Expert for NSA, and his decision to leak government information. Snowden released confidential documents to the public regarding surveillance programs that the U.S. government uses to monitor citizens. The sensitive information led to debates and concerns regarding technology hazards, national security, and privacy.
Some individuals sided with Snowden as they believed that the surveillance systems violates basic rights and breached privacy. They perceived Snowden as a hero and the leak as an ethical act for the public. There is also the argument that the surveillance programs violate the Patriot Act and other similar laws. Alternatively, others viewed Snowden as a traitor as his action was a violation of the Espionage Act. Some individuals argued that the enemies of the U.S. can utilize the leaked information against the country. Terrorist groups can attempt to gain unauthorized access to surveillance systems and take advantage of the information. Snowden’s case illustrates the two sides of the argument and is a useful reference in discussing the benefits of both concepts. However, this essay will focus on discussing the benefits of security over privacy.
Security can Preserve Liberty
While many associates privacy with freedom, security can also provide access to liberty. According to Sætra (2022), the digital age allows countries to trade privacy for security which can then result in the preservation of liberty. In the digital age, the public tends to store their personal information online. Companies and organizations utilize servers as data storage for their documents. Private individuals keep some of their personal information online. Online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ask users for their personal information and can even acquire access to their current location. These influences of the digital age can allow governments to access information that can help secure the public from harm. Governments can track potential terrorist activities which can threaten a country’s freedom.
In the digital age, some may consider government cyberattacks as a threat to liberty. Cyberattacks have become a significant issue in democratic governments since sensitive information is available online (Fox and Cross, 2015). Enhancing cyber security can safeguard a country’s liberty and prevent terrorist attacks. Additionally, Cross (2015) argued that a country is always in constant war and it may be necessary to trade privacy for national security with regard to the welfare of the public (cited in Fox and Cross, 2015). Enhancing security, such as using online surveillance systems, may help prevent massive casualties from surprise terrorist attacks. In Snowden’s case, for example, the U.S. government may utilize surveillance data to detect online terrorist activities and prevent possible attacks.
Contact Tracing and the Covid-19 Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the world economy has led to the loss of occupation, a high number of casualties, and businesses going bankrupt. The infectious disease has become a threat to national security due to its rampant effects (Saetra, 2022)To manage the pandemic, governments utilize contact tracing to track the movement of their citizens and identify potential infections. Contract tracing allows the government to have access to personal information, such as the places that an individual previously visited, which trades some aspect of their privacy for national security. The effectiveness of contact tracing in managing the pandemic showcases the significance of prioritizing security over privacy during times of national threats.
Private Companies are Already Selling Private Information
Individuals should prioritize security over privacy since many private companies are already selling information to other organizations. According to Cross (2015), companies require application users to agree with terms and conditions that lead to the exploitation of personal information (cited in Fox and Cross, 2015). Any individual that has downloaded, installed, and used an online application will be aware of the long text of terms and conditions. Some companies include texts in these agreements that legally allow them to sell personal information, such as birthdays, contact numbers, and online behaviors. If individuals also allow the government to have access to the same information, they can utilize the information to preserve liberty and improve national security.
Protecting the Public from Crime
One of the more obvious reasons for prioritizing security over privacy is the protection from crime. Governments can utilize biometric technology, body-worn cameras, deep packet inspection, and other systems to monitor citizens that may commit crimes. Currently, governments are using surveillance tools, such as Smart CCTVs, to detect criminal behavior, identify criminals, and catch law offenders (Möllers and Hälterlein, 2013, cited in Esposti et al.2021). Police officers that wear body cameras can effectively perform their work without the fear of receiving false claims of police brutality. According to Jiang et al. (2020), police officers prefer to wear body cameras as they find it advantageous during their shifts. While these types of technologies can be intrusive, they are effective in helping authorities address criminal activities.
Surveillance technology, such as deep packet inspection, tends to be more intrusive as it gains access to online communications. In Snowden’s case, deep packet inspection is one of the surveillance systems that government uses to monitor the public. While this type of system is intrusive, they are effective in preventing and addressing child pornography, terrorism, and discriminatory acts (Procedda, 2013, cited in Esposti et al. 2021). Their intrusive characteristics allow the organizations that utilize them to breach criminals’ digital infrastructures and gain access to illegal transactions.
Balance Between Security and Privacy
While prioritizing security can lead to a safer environment, governments must avoid disregarding the privacy of their citizens. According to Saetra (2022); while security preserves liberty, liberty still requires privacy. If a government forfeits privacy, each citizen will lose their freedom which can lead to autocracy. This can then raise various issues which can threaten peace and national security. As governments raise their security, they must take into account privacy and avoid disregarding the basic rights of citizens.
Both security and privacy are integral aspects of society, however, it can be beneficial for governments to prioritize the former. Using privacy as a currency to promote enhanced security is essential in the digital age as there are more threats available in the real and digital space. Prioritizing security can result in the preservation of liberty, protection from biological threats, prevention of terrorist attacks, responsible use of information, and a useful tool in criminal justice. While some may argue that prioritizing security voids them of their freedom and rights, it is important to understand that the greater good outweighs individual preference.
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Bambauer, D. (2013). Privacy Versus Security. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 103(3). Available at https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7454&context=jclc. Accessed January 18, 2022.
DeCew, J. (2018). Privacy. The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/privacy/ . Accessed January 18, 2022.
Ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu. (n.d.). Edward Snowden: Traitor or Hero. Ethics Unwrapped. Available at https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/case-study/edward-snowden-traitor-hero . Accessed January 18, 2022.
Esposti, S., Ball, K., & Dibb, S. (2021). What’s In It For Us? Benevolence, National Security, and Digital Surveillance. Public Administration Review, vol 81(5). Available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/puar.13362. Accessed January 26, 2022.
Fox, M. & Cross, T. (2015). Is Privacy More Vital Than National Security? Debating How Far Governments Should Go When Balancing Individuals and Safeguarding the Nation. Index on Censorship. Available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0306422015571513. Accessed January 26, 2022.
Jiang, F., Xie, C., & Ellis, T. (2020). Police Officers’ Perceptions of Body-Worn Video Cameras in Beijing. International Criminal Justice Review. Available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1057567720919913. Accessed January 18, 2022.
NPR.org. (2020). Edward Snowden: Why Does Online Privacy Matter? NPR. Available at https://www.npr.org/2020/03/20/818341273/edward-snowden-why-does-online-privacy-matter. Accessed January 18, 2022.
Osisanya, S. (n.d.). National Security Versus Global Security. United Nations. Available at https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/national-security-versus-global-security. Accessed January 18, 2022.
Saetra, H. (2022). The Ethics of Trading Privacy for Security: THe Multifaceted Effects of Privacy on Liberty and Security. Technology in Society, vol 68. Available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2021.101854. Accessed January 18, 2022.
Wilson, L., Wright, K., Robertson, J., & Lennard, C. (2020). Australian Biometric System to Meet National Security Objectives - Part II Legislation and Policy. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol 54(1). Available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00450618.2020.1781253. Accessed January 19, 2022.
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