The current debate over the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, PRISM, highlights a great conundrum for citizens of any country: How much personal privacy should one give up in exchange for better national security?
When I wrote my novel We, The Watched and its upcoming sequel Divided We Fall, I imagined a dystopian nation in which the government had used national security as an excuse to take all privacy rights from the people. That’s not the case today, but it’s one possible outcome if the balance swings too far in one direction.
With every call, social media update or credit card transaction, people leave behind a long trail of data that can potentially be stored and analyzed by businesses and the government. The digitization of video and an increasing number of surveillance cameras potentially adds even more data to mix.
Evolving tools for big data analysis provide an ability to parse and make sense of all this information like never before. This technology can be used for good and keep people safe, but like any great power it can be abused without the right privacy checks in place.