Security vs Freedom

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Advancement of Telecommunication Technologies

Because of the advancement of telecommunication technologies, the way our culture works is changing. New modes of communication have had a positive impact on society, but they have also presented challenges, such as allowing criminals and terrorists to avoid interception by security agencies.

Precautionary Steps and Detrimental Consequences

With the heightened danger of extremism and conflict in the postmodern globalized world, many countries have taken precautionary steps to safeguard their people by ensuring violent attacks are stopped before they occur. These policies can have detrimental consequences, such as limiting citizens' rights and reducing their anonymity, and the question is what information can be considered confidential.

Government Surveillance and Infringement on Personal Freedoms

Governments are increasingly infringing on personal freedoms by accessing private information about their citizens, in some instances without their knowledge or consent. While the extent of the surveillance is unknown, governments have admitted to collecting vast amounts of information about their citizens by monitoring communication through emails, conversations on social media, public camera surveillance, and recording phone calls. These practices were stepped up by many governments across the world after the 9/11 attacks, with the United States government passing the USA PATRIOT Act. A more recent example is the case of FBI against the phone manufacturer Apple. The company opposed a move by the security agency to compel it to grant it access to the phone of a suspected terrorist. According to the company’s CEO, this would set a bad precedent regarding the privacy and civil liberties of the rest of the American population. Widespread public fear makes it easy for a government to pass legislation that may limit civil liberties without a proper discussion of how it may affect the citizens. The basis for enacting such laws is that national and public security is more important than individual freedom. This raises the question, can freedom and security coexist in the digital age?

Balance Between Freedom and Security

While freedom is important, it should not be an excuse to obstruct intelligence gathering or put the lives of others at stake. For instance, while freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution, no one should raise a false alarm for fire as this risks many other lives unnecessarily. Similarly, in order to ensure that they are protected, citizens have to concede some degree of private and public autonomy. This is because nowadays, the amount of data that has to be analyzed for security agencies to establish a pattern of behavior that might indicate a security risk is huge. Furthermore, such patterns are online, and there isn't one wire that security agencies can tap for an individual suspected of engaging in terrorist activities. Unlike the era of the world war, when the means of communication were fewer and surveillance could be targeted at an individual, the digital age requires that numerous channels of communication are examined if security threats are to be identified on time. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS communicate through social media such as Facebook and security agents need to have access to such platforms to gather intelligence. Failure to grant them access to such platforms or to provide vital information such as could be contained in the phone of a terrorist might compromise the security of even more people. Thus, freedom and security cannot coexist, as there has to be more of one at any given time.


Beres, Damon. "Apple CEO Tim Cook Takes on the FBI for Threatening Your Data". The Huffington Post. 2016.

Boykoff, Jules. "How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act? Freedom versus Security in the Age of Terrorism." The Journal of Politics vol. 68, 2 (2006): 470-471.

Foucault, Michel, Michel Senellart, and Graham Burchell. Security, Territory, Population. 1st ed. New York: Picador, 2009.

December 28, 2022


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