Privacy is a fundamental right
Debate Rounds (4)
This is a second attempt at this debate - CON was unaware that round #1 terms were negotiable.
This debate originated from this thread on Edward Snowden:
CON saw little to no reason to be agitated by the NSA surveillance program PRISM. In order to attempt to understand his perspective, I made several allusions to physical reality, whether it be the government surreptitiously installing cameras into one's home, or government surveillance of public roads.
For this specific debate, I want to debate one specific aspect of privacy - video surveillance on public roads. To keep this debate relevant to the debate surrounding PRISM, the situation will be thus - that the government has somehow installed a satellite and on-the-ground surveillance system that monitors the comings and goings of each and every American citizen while they are utilizing public roads for any reason, whether it be as a pedestrian or a motorist (to include cyclists, passengers, etc). This surveillance system has been installed without public knowledge - it is a clandestine surveillance system. Motorists are allowed to tint their rear passenger and rear windows to circumvent surveillance, although no one is sure that this surveillance system actually exists due to its clandestine nature. The government records any and all information resulting from this surveillance system, and is allowed to do so without obtaining a warrant.
- Does this include surveillance of the sidewalk?
- Paths within parks that do not border roads?
Yes, all public roads.
- Does the system have the means to identify pedestrians or does it use number plate analysis to determine the registered owner of the vehicle?
It comprises of video surveillance, so faces can be matched through a facial recognition system.
Anarchist arguments stemming from a politically nihilistic philosophy are not allowed for this debate - we are to assume the legitimacy of a functioning government for the purposes of this debate.
The conditions of this scenario are deemed valid for this debate. CON cannot argue that such a system is not possible to implement - that would violate round #1 rules of behavior for this debate.
Privacy is a Fundamental Right
Privacy - freedom from unadvertised intrusion - for the purposes of this debate, the public roads scenario represents an unadvertised intrusion.
Fundamental Right - for the purposes of this debate, a fundamental right will be one that is universally recognized as a just pursuit of any legal system, including the American legal system. Basically, any fundamental right belonging to an individual should be defended by the coercive powers of the state. Common fundamental rights would be the right to live without experiencing theft, rape, or murder.
A plain English aim of this debate would be that "the government has no business conducting unadvertised surveillance of public roads."
For PRO to win this debate, PRO must demonstrate either that 1) the government has no business conducting this surveillance, or 2) if it did, it must be made public knowledge that such surveillance occurs. CON will argue that both the surveillance itself and unadvertised nature of the surveillance is fully justifiable.
4,000 character round
Round #1 acceptance
Rounds 2/3 arguments
Round #4 closing, no new arguments, no new sources
This will be a NO SCORING debate. Readers are free to note who ultimately convinced them of their arguments along with any other observations and constructive criticisms of the debate, however, I ask that readers not score this debate, in order to make more objective the reader's comments.
America, indeed the entire world, has come a long way. When people in the 1700s wanted to record something for posterity, they typically hired a scribe to jot down dictated thoughts onto paper, or sat still for hours while a painter who had devoted his entire life to his craft painstakingly rendered a portrait. Today, all we need to do is carry a camera...or not even that, as a phone would now suffice for most photo-worthy events, and some phones can record hours of conversations at the press of a button. All of the joys and events significant to one's life would find a nice, cozy cubby hole somewhere in someone's PRIVATE possessions, or perhaps a hard disk on one's PERSONAL computer.
This ease of record-keeping makes one think that we could record just about anything, but why would we want to? Would you really want to record the entire life of your dog while it's peeing on trees and crapping in the yard? Really, why else would we need to record anything for posterity?
There aren't many other reasons. Most have to do with the central concept of ACCOUNTABILITY, and this is where my arguments against the resolution come into play. We KNOW when we enter a bank that there are cameras aimed at the cash to prevent anyone, including the employees, from stealing the money. We KNOW that during a trial, each and every word spoken by anyone within court protocol will be recorded for posterity, so that the defendent is held accountable for his or her deeds. There is nothing wrong with such recordings for the sake of accountability.
The government, by installing a CLANDESTINE surveillance system on public roads, is NOT HELD ACCOUNTABLE for it. No one knows about it. Even though the evidence garnered from such a system could be used against a defendent, the defendent would never know about it - he or she would be deemed guilty or not guilty by a process that would never be disclosed to anyone, lest you risk exposure to the CLANDESTINE system used to gather the evidence.
So, if one day you're walking your dog and the cops come arrest you, you may be held for reasons you may not understand. You may be forced to confess to events that you know that no one had witnessed. You may be found guilty for crimes the nature of which would remain unknown to you, lest the means by which evidence was obtain be exposed.
This is why in this specific case, privacy is a fundamental right. If this surveillance system was PUBLIC in nature, then one could justify it under the rubric of accountability - one could also find ways to escape the public view and conduct appropriate matters in private. But, if it remains secret, if it remains clandestine, it remains as a means for which the government would for all intents and purposes suspend habeas corpus - the right to be free from unlawful detention. Such suspension of basic rights only applies in America during invasion or rebellion...it effectively suspends the Constitution. It effectively admits that the laws of the land do not apply. Without privacy (i.e. protection against unadvertised intrusion), we are without rights.
Firstly I would like to thank my opponent for putting up with repeated queries on the foundation of this debate and for my inexperience with this particular format. I hope this debate proves useful in exposing our two obviously quite different points of view on the subject of privacy.
My Position on the Resolution as Stated
Privacy is not a fundamental right. Privacy for its own sake has the potential to protect those acting against the interests of others and gives little to no benefit to those acting for the benefit of others. It is a hinderance to the legitimate pursuit of law enforcement and as such does not deserve the same protections given to such rights as security of the person and freedoms of belief, travel and association.
Privacy should instead be classed with what I will call 'secondary rights'. These are rights which are often protected as a means of protecting other rights for the sole reason that they are easier to enforce. Such rights include freedom of speech and the right to privacy. Secondary rights often come in pairs, each protecting opposing rights which are each beneficial in moderation. Primary rights do not have this quality, as the opposing rights are held in reserve by the state. Only the state may prevent someone from travelling, only the state may incarcerate someone or in some places execute them. The right to privacy is balanced by an obligation to disclose (or for the entity to which information is provided, a right to require disclosure). There are many examples where the individual is expected to disclose information not just to the government but to other individuals or organisations. Loans require disclosure of assets and debts, STDs require disclosure to sexual partners (whether the law actually requires it or not). Information flow is a crucial part of the social transactions that make society run. It is for this reason that the right to privacy cannot be regarded as either fundamental or universal.
My opponent expresses concern that the government would not be held accountable for the use of the information obtained through a clandestine surveillance network. In particular, he asserts that in order to maintain the secret nature of the programme, any evidence obtained would not be shown to the defendant and this would undermine his ability to mount a defence. There are three problems with this argument. Firstly, the defence lawyer could be provided with the information and required to agree to non-disclosure. This does not widen the loop considerably but allows the defence to plan an appropriate response. Secondly, and in keeping with the intentions behind PRISM, the information would not necessarily need to be entered into the trial at all. On time sensitive cases, it may be necessary to use such a mechanism to for example, trace the path of a vehicle suspected of carrying explosives. If such explosives are found, this would be sufficient evidence of the crime, without knowing how this information was obtained. Thirdly, in public trials where the evidence is actually required, a video could be shown which provides the required evidence but does not outline how extensive the network is. Video surveillance networks already exist, the public does not have to know how extensive they are. I will discuss evidence tampering in my next round, I'm running short of words.
I will now address what I consider to be the most important facet of this discussion. What need is there for privacy? Privacy is designed to protect individuals from malicious attacks. The more information that is held by others about you, the more chance that someone will figure out how to do something untoward with it. Information is secured because it helps prevent targeted crime (opportunistic crime is still an issue). I would advocate instead of a right to privacy, a right to obscurity. One should be permitted to obscure whatever information they choose. Many methods of doing this are publicly and cheaply available.
I am glad I persevered in getting this debate going. I expected my opponent to give a formidable argument and am not disappointed. However formidable it may be, I will deconstruct it and show it to be invalid.
This debate is about Fundamental Rights
My opponent has made some interesting distinctions between primary and secondary rights, but such distinctions are only relevant to the debate if they relate to fundamental rights, i.e. "universally recognized as a just pursuit of any legal system," and "should be defended by the coercive powers of the state." Using this definition, I would simply say that my opponent's use of "secondary rights" are also fundamental, and that he has not challenged the resolution with this approach.
For example, I find it odd that CON thinks that the freedom of speech is not a "primary" right. "The pen is mightier than the sword;" ideology throughout history has proven to be quite potent. From holy wars to pivotal figures like Hitler and Gandhi, ideology has motivated people to perform incredible acts of kindness as well as heinous acts of violence. It is through freedom of speech that such ideas promulgate...it is a fundamental right (with exceptions of course, like slander, libel, hate speech, etc) parallel to the right to self-defense. If this "secondary right" is fundamental, then privacy is as well.
Accountability is Paramount
IMHO, my opponent's arguments fail the hardest here. He argues three points:
1) Disclosure is allowable, as long as it is accompanied by a promise of non-disclosure
2) Means of collecting evidence need not be disclosed
3) Means of collecting evidence can be disclosed locally without disclosing the actual program
I will address #1 in detail and #2/#3 briefly due to space concerns.
1) Selective disclosure sets up the stage for unfair advantage. Anyone fortuitous to have an altercation involving this clandestine security system, brought to trial where it was disclosed, and was subsequently exonerated, would become aware of this security system. On the surface this may look harmless enough, but two arguments suggest otherwise:
a) If this system became a bedrock of the legal system, a critical mass of people would become aware of the system, thereby violating the round #1 stipulation that this system remain clandestine. That would render CON's entire line of reasoning irrelevant to this debate.
b) Unfair advantages directly translate to the government inadvertently picking winners and losers in the marketplace. Example: FedEx and UPS are competitors, and their activity is monitored by the US government under this program. The CEO of FedEx, on a routine traffic stop, challenges his ticket in court, where he discovers the existence of this clandestine security system. His high-powered lawyers exonerate him from his traffic violation, but the CEO is still left with full knowledge of this system. He desires to know how his opponent's logistics system works, so he engineers a diabolically specific civil lawsuit against UPS that would force the government to disclose the security system and thereby submit as evidence any and all relevant data on UPS's logistic systems. Now armed with his opponent's proprietary trade secrets, he proceeds to dismantle and circumvent UPS's logistic systems, perhaps by building low-cost/high-effect barrier systems that would screw with the timing of UPS's delivery service. This would erode UPS's advantage and destroy the company.
This argument also addresses the need for privacy. All businesses have trade secrets, and all trade secrets require privacy. Privacy is a fundamental right.
2/3) Any good defense lawyer will question the means by which the evidence was collected in order to prove reasonable doubt and to attempt to discredit the methodology. If the government chooses not to disclose the program, then the government has ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY, i.e. police state, martial law. If it does, then my rebuttal to CON's point #1 applies.
My opponent critizes the distinction I make between primary and secondary rights as being irrelevant to the discussion. I will now demonstrate its relevance to the topic at hand. I believe the implication was there that the only fundamental rights would be primary rights and secondary rights would be contingent rights by virtue of their non-universality.
What I mean by this is the following, given that there is another secondary right in opposition to each secondary right, the protection of each cannot be universal, and any discussion over which right should be upheld will have to appeal to other primary rights. We cannot decide on secondary rights alone. In one motion, my opponent asserts the primacy of freedom of speech, and then caveats this by protections agains slander, libel and hate speech. He cannot have his cake and eat it too. Either the right is universal, or it is not. Universal (primary) rights are fundamental, and can be used as the sole reason for a legal decision in a dispute between two parties (not including the state). Secondary rights are persuasive only, and such rights cannot be upheld in all cases (as they are often in direct opposition).
This appears to be the major sticking point in our discussion. I will put forward the following proposal.
In any case of a violation of privacy, the gathering of information alone does nothing to damage the individual. It is only in cases where this information is actually used that harm is done to the individual. In this case, legal restrictions on how the information can be used (providing legal recourse when the government does use the information) should be available.
My opponent asserts that the government in our particular example will do everything necessary to ensure that the clandestine nature of the surveillance is ensured. We must however assume, that the government can still only do things within its legitimate power. It is unfair of us to assume that because the government will not respect privacy that it will not respect our other rights in its pursuit of this violation of privacy, this goes against our stated assumption of the legitimacy of government. We must assume that there has been legislation passed which permits violations of privacy of this nature, without exposing what programmes are in play.
In which case we must investigate the means of ensuring the secrecy of the programme available to the government. In particular, even suppressing information from the trial still leaves a trace, there will still be information left behind. Every time the information is used, there will be traces left and this will eventually lead to the 'critical mass' my opponent mentions. In which case, the only reasonable course of action to 'ensure secrecy' would be to never use the information at all. In which case, I say that there is absolutely no harm to it. If my opponent wishes to investigate instead a weaker notion of 'clandestine' which does not require that the government be capable of maintaining the secrecy indefinitely to an arbitrary degree then perhaps there will be something on which to debate. Clandestine government operations are usually assumed to become public eventually (and if they aren't then whoever started it was kidding themselves).
I make the final point that it is only by insisting that the secrecy of the programme be absolute that my opponent is able to dismiss my arguments and that if he were to take a slightly less dogmatic interpretation of the word 'clandestine' (as for instance in the description of 'unadvertised' surveillance) we might have something more substantial to discuss. In order to achieve such absolute secrecy the government either has to:
a. Be granted additional powers that were not given to it by the context of this debate or
b. Never use information that was gathered using the programme.
Neither of which are useful in resolving this debate.
Only Fundamental Rights Matter For This Debate
CON's arguments regarding primary and secondary rights continue to obfuscate the topic for discussion - Fundamental Rights.
CON states: "...given that there is another secondary right in opposition to each secondary right, the protection of each cannot be universal," but he does not make a case that secondary rights are in opposition to each other. How is privacy opposed to freedom of speech, for example? CON discusses the two without putting them in opposition to each other.
He also states that "[CON] asserts the primacy of freedom of speech, and then caveats this by protections against slander, libel and hate speech." This is not an argument for the opposition of freedom of speech...it merely refines that definition to a more precise form. Freedom of speech without libel and hate speech is not in opposition to privacy, for example, nor is it opposed to itself. CON's arguments to this effect are non-sensical and illogical.
CON may think that freedom of speech with caveats is opposed to freedom of speech...however, I am not discussing freedom of speech as a fundamental right, but freedom of speech with caveats as a fundamental right. Regardless, this discussion is inapplicable to the fundamental right to privacy and is a gigantic strawman.
Accountability is STILL Paramount
On accountability, CON states: "the gathering of information alone does nothing to damage the individual. It is only in cases where this information is actually used that harm is done to the individual." However, simply gathering information does not imply monitoring, and it is MONITORING that makes this system a surveillance system. (http://www.merriam-webster.com...) If you create this surveillance system without the intent of surveillance, what is the point of creating the system? This is a non-sequitor argument from CON - per round #1, we are talking about a clandestine surveillance system.
CON is correct that "...even suppressing information from the trial still leaves a trace, there will still be information left behind. Every time the information is used, there will be traces left and this will eventually lead to the 'critical mass' my opponent mentions." This is where this unadvertised intrusion, where this violation of privacy becomes most glaring and most inexcusable. To keep this system clandestine, and given that the government is not accountable to anyone other than itself with such a system, the government would then be unobliged to disclose ANY information about the program, to include reporting evidence in a trial or even active suppression. Due to the program's clandestine nature, unaccountability would also grant the government any and every opportunity to spread misinformation about the program. It could try and convict suspects without any form of scrutiny except for what it gives itself, and claim immunity from examination due to the necessarily clandestine nature of this program (i.e., how PRISM works). The year is 1984.
Even excluding discussion of the 4th amendment, the government could still imprison citizens without any disclosable cause under this program, and habeas corpus would still not apply.
- CON has made a non-sequitor distinction between fundamental, primary, and secondary rights.
- CON is not talking about a surveillance system, but an information-gathering system, the information not being subject to any analysis, i.e. no monitoring, i.e. no surveillance...another non-sequitor.
- Again, privacy is a fundamental right:
1) It is vital for private sector performance in a competitive environment (dropped by CON)
2) It is vital for the existence of laws in general, as without an individual's right to privacy, the government can surreptitiously collect evidence against individuals and prosecute them without disclosure, rendering a nation's laws irrelevant to criminal proceedings.
Thanks to CON for engaging in and to you for reading this debate.
As it is clear that my opponent and I are debating entirely different issues, I see nothing to resolve. I agree that if we take the interpretation of the word 'clandestine' my opponent has and therefore argue that the government would have to ignore other truly fundamental rights in order to maintain secrecy, then I have an issue. But not because privacy is being violated.
My opponent stated as part of his aim an attempt to understand my lack of opposition to a programme like PRISM. However, by refusing to acknowledge the points I raised regarding primary and secondary rights he has unfortunately missed out on this objective. I clearly stated that the right in opposition to privacy is the right to require disclosure. I never stated that freedom of speech was in opposition to privacy. I used the former as an example. He states that freedom of speech without libel and hate speech is the same as freedom of speech when it is not, freedom from libel and protection form hate speech are each secondary rights of their own. If my opponent cannot make sense of my arguments, then perhaps I should have been more clear, perhaps he should have tried harder to find the sense rather than simply ignoring the sentences that answer his challenges. I'll let you decide.
Again, my position on the stated resolution of 'Privacy is a fundamental right' is no, privacy is not fundamental.
My position on a covert surveillance system (where I interpret covert as 'attempting to avoid detection' not 'actually avoiding detection') is that such a system is justifiable provided that other fundamental rights are not violated.
My position on a clandestine surveillance system (where clandestine is interpreted in the sense my opponent has used) is that such a system would inevitably violate rights other than privacy and thus should not be permitted (unless someone can find a way to do it while still protecting other fundamental rights, I do not yet discount this possibility).
My opponent does not seem to be able to comprehend that I can be opposed to a programme such as this for precisely the reasons he mentions without agreeing that it has anything to do with privacy. In which case, this entire debate is pointless as his argument rests on other rights that are completely independent of privacy. If he wished to discuss something other than the privacy concerns here, then perhaps he should have picked a different resolution.
I look forward to viewers comments, but am dissapointed that we did not succeed in reaching any kind of synthesis.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 3 years ago
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