Tuesday, November 19, 2013

As Long As The Content Isn’t Used To Detain Or Harass You

from the oh-really? dept

Mike Masnick
Tech Dirt
November 18, 2013

Eric Posner, a law professor in Chicago and a full-blown supporter of extreme authoritarian governments (he’s even written a book about why the US presidency needs more power and less respect for the Constitutional separation of powers), is, not surprisingly, a big fan of the NSA’s surveillance efforts. In the past, he’s mocked Snowden and Manning, and talked up why a government that keeps secrets is better than one that’s actually accountable to its public. In other words, he’s the perfect stooge to try to come up with a justification for Rep. Mike Rogers’ ridiculous claims that your privacy isn’t violated if you don’t know about it.

His latest article isn’t directly a justification for that statement — in fact, it doesn’t even mention it — but it’s clearly cut from the same cloth. He makes the argument that the NSA should keep spying on all foreigners in part because they spy on us (and also because he thinks we’re good at it). However, he also has a rather unique interpretation of privacy:
Mass surveillance—where emails and other communications are vacuumed up, stored in databases, and then searched for keywords—doesn’t harm anyone in itself. The problem only arises when the information is used to detain, interrogate, or harass people.
He’s using this bizarre and laughable line of argument to suggest that it’s okay when governments spy on citizens in other countries because their “intelligence agents do not have the time or inclination to harass random Americans, nor the capability as long as Americans remain in the United States.” So, in his mind: no privacy violation happens.

He doubles down on this thinking later, arguing again that if there’s no known “harm” to the individual, there’s no privacy issue at all.

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