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Retaining Privacy Is More Important Than Forfeiting It In The Fight Against Terrorism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/27/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 324 times Debate No: 87324
Debate Rounds (4)
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My argument is as the topic says. I believe that retaining privacy, both from corporate entities and government, is more important than the fight against terrorism.

Take note: I'm opening this debate up, so that you can argue about the value of privacy instead of our fundamental right to it. I recognize that most people feel we need a "right" to privacy, but the vast majority willingly forfeit the right to privacy in spite of the government launching massive data collection programs and also in spite of their "CISA" bill which allows them to grant legal immunity for corporation to collect data on anyone without their knowledge or consent.. so long as they share that data with the government.

So I won't argue on the necessity to have privacy as a right. I think we all agree we need the right to privacy, but in a world where we give it up on a massive scale; I think we should talk about the implications of that.


I thank the Pro for this debate, and hope that we both can engage in a debate with a clear winner.
Without further ado, here is the basic and fundamental problem in my opponent's stance. My opponent would like to believe that after the terrorist organizations grow too large, we can still protect our privacy from that. I believe that if we suspect any one individual for cyber terrorism or other reasons, we should inspect and search. Of course, the one who is skeptical needs a warrant or could follow a process that could be implemented. (The government wouldn't be able to search anyone they would like, just because.) Going back to cyber terrorism, if they have access or are in close location to you, the easier it is to attack you. Therefore, if we CAN do something, we should follow all leads possible.
Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, I absolutely believe we can continue to protect our privacy, with respect to a terrorist organization of any size within reason.

My opponent seems to believe that if we suspect an individual of terrorism, we should "inspect and search" and a warrant should be required before doing so. My opponent asserts that we should "follow all leads possible."

Well, that's exactly right. A warrant is a constitutionally valid way of invading someone's privacy and absolutely is a great solution. Using the methods you've suggested, we actually do retain the right to privacy that we've enjoyed since the creation of the Constitution.

However, no warrant will be issued to an individual before the government begins collecting their data. No warrant will be issued to an individual before businesses and corporations begin collecting their data. No warrant will be issued to an individual before businesses and corporations hand that data over to the government (this also occurs on a massive scale, legally.)

A quick look at the NSA's website will give you an idea of what data is collected, how it's collected, and what can be done with it.

The debate about whether or not this is legal is irrelevant. You might say you own this data, and you might say you don't own this data. Overall, the verdict seems to be that you don't own this data. A quick look at the NSA's data collection program seems to indicate that you do not. So I'll happily move on with the assumption that you do not own the data.

The vast majority of people invite these modern day tools into their lives and the technology does what it does: it generates tons of usage data. The generation of this data is a function of the many different devices that product it. In some cases you're free to modify the code that executes this process, in some cases you will be prevented from doing so by design or by copyright infringement law.

Today, roughly 61% of Americans own a smartphone, from roughly 31% in 2010. 91% of Americans own some type of cellphone. It seems reasonable to assume that nearly 91% of Americans will own a smart phone within a decade. The implications of government data collection will surely scale with adoption of the smart phone, let alone other devices such as vehicles, smart televisions, computers, and upcoming smart devices.

We'll work with smart phones for now. A person who owns a smart phone will have quite a bit of data collected from them. Some of that data is as follows:

Internet history, GPS and telemetry, text messages, economy and banking, voice samples, biometrics such as fingerprints and face recognition data, stored files such as pictures and copyrighted material, phone logs, contacts, emails.

Advertising has evolved ingeniously with just corporation interpretation of this data. With some intuitive algorithms, we expect our government to be quite effective at finding terrorists.

Biometrics could be matched with known terrorists. Internet history could expose individuals who visit known virtual junctures for terrorists like specific websites, chatrooms or even group messaging within certain services. Voice samples could be matched to actual conference call records from certain individual terrorists. GPS could identify friends of terrorists. Pictures and face recognition data could be combined to search internet records and find who they've taken pictures with, or pictures published throughout their life (perhaps before they became terrorists.) This could be used to find more potential threats. Phone logs, contacts, emails, banking and purchase history.. the list of uses are virtually infinite.

Most of this should be possible with current technology. In the future it could be possible to work even more intuitively. The first step, obviously, is data acquisition.

Back to our debate:

Like I said, the debate about our legal right to privacy is second to the debate about the importance of it. We're debating about the whether it's more important to fight terrorism, or retain our privacy.

We're presuming that our government has the right to collect this data. They also have the financial means, and a prerogative to do so.

I propose that the risk of allowing our government to collect this data is greater than the risk of the terrorism and criminality that it's supposedly prevents.

A government with this kind of information on it's populace is capable of things far beyond what terrorists and common criminals are. This type of data collection and analysis can be used to influence free political process. The inherent expectation of being spied on can restrict free speech. Upcoming politicians, in particular, may need to think twice before trying to charge the director of the NSA with the crime of perjury for lying to Congress during their investigation. That did happen, after all. Pondering such an action may cause the member of Congress to feel some concern over what data the NSA director has access to; how his reputation would be effected if a certain event in his long life were revealed to the public. Text or photo records. Purchase history. Search history? Forget reputation; just think of how strongly you could impact the effectiveness of a politician when you have the entire digital record of their life at your finger tips? Propaganda and overthrowing foreign governments is the name of the game for our secret intelligence agencies, after all.

Today this type of occurrence may seems unlikely. Imagine, however, what we'll be dealing with if the technology and initiative for this data collection persists for the next 20 years. What happens if corruption spreads through the NSA, then? What if it's the same kind of corruption that occurred in the 60's, resulting in our own CIA requesting authorization from the president to commit a false flag attack on American soil to create a thirst for war among the populace? Are we to ignore this possibility even though there is documented, historical precedent?

I propose that the implications of allowing this mass data collection are far more threatening than the implications of relying on traditional methods such as warrants to investigate suspected terrorists. If you look at history, you'll find nothing that has caused more death and disparity than governments run-amok. In my humble opinion, all of the actual purposes for retaining the right to privacy have been compromised and the inalienable human right to privacy has been reduced to a mere novelty.

I look forward to my opponent's response.


My opponent starts off his claim stating that he believes that the size is irregardless for them to collect our personal information. Now, I somewhat agree with this. First, a terrorist organization when they get bigger will extend to more people. Syed Farooq, an American all around, was able to murder people he spent time with. If we do "invade privacy", and we find out this man is connected to terrorist groups, who knows what leads will follow. We could stop, maybe, other potential attacks. I understand this man is a person, but he has murdered others. In this case, there needs to be actions taken.

Next, my opponent also states that "privacy" can also be demonstrated with a warrant. That we are still respecting one's privacy with a warrant. However, this is false. Privacy is not being able to keep your business to yourself, but when U.S. law requires, there is exceptions. No, privacy is not that. Privacy is "the state of being alone : the state of being away from other people" per Merriam Webster. The U.S. constitution or the legal or not battle should not affect whether they are respecting privacy or not. Therefore, they are invading your privacy for the greater good. If potentially, Farooq's phone was invaded and that saves even 1 person, I would choose the latter.

Now, then my opponent goes into great detail about smartphones and the data involved with it. I don't understand the relevancy nor the jist of the argument itself, so if my opponent could elaborate in the next round that would be beneficial.

Next, my opponent continually states that the debate is a "pick and choose." You have to pick combating terrorism or retaining privacy.
I also think my opponent is assuming that all of our privacy is ultimately taken away. While that is not likely or factual, let us then, I guess, look at the extreme of terrorism. Because my opponent would like us to examine the extreme of privacy, the extreme of terrorism is much worse. Think of millions killed or think of millions with their privacy invaded. Choose wisely. Of course, people would choose to live. If you allow an individual or a terrorist group to become big, they will also invade your privacy.

What I'm touching on is what I'd like to spend a good amount of time on. What I am trying to say is that if we don't try and combat groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda then they will grow. If we let them grow and spillover in Americans our privacy is lost, too. So if we ignore groups with the intent to harm, ultimately the same outcome will occur with even worse side affects as well. Retaining privacy isn't as important if so many are killed.

Another problem my opponent has is the NSA and their corruption, but what my opponent is forgetting is that our government is connected. Also, I would be willing to risk that being used in the government than terrorist groups. My opponent also mentions that many have been killed in governments run amok. But my question is: what changes? With your phone data, its not "easier" to kill you. If the government becomes that corrupt, then they don't have to obtain your information to kill you.

Ultimately, the side affects of terrorism are more adverse than those of privacy. I understand that to my opponent and others privacy is a right; an American right, but so is the right to live. At the end, my opponent, the voters and I have to decide, is privacy worth lives?
Debate Round No. 2


A warrant does respect an individuals right to privacy. A judge must grant authorization to another individual before the breach of privacy is committed, and it must be for good reason. Despite the singular breach of privacy, the spirit of privacy is retained as a whole because each incident of this breach will be put up to a review process and requires a good deal of local government involvement.

The value of privacy is in how it protects the people from unscrupulous government action.

The relevancy of data collection involved in smartphone (for instance,) is that the CISA bill which was passed in December creates a direct pipeline for data from smartphones to become data for the government to quantify, secretly, for their own purposes.

The idea of privacy as your right to be left alone, in private, is a singular and naive viewpoint. You're focusing on yourself. Your privacy, your usage habits, control over your life. The privacy of the individual isn't damaged by direct infringement upon the individual's privacy; it's damaged by the social implications of implied privacy infringement on a massive scale. Privacy protects speech, it protects the development of social and political views from government over generations, it protects the the electoral process, and it protects political freedom. If you bothered to look at how privacy was decided upon as a necessary right, by looking at how privacy infringement has been used to destroy great nations throughout history, you'd understand this.

We have the talk about what these corporations and (sometimes) what the government is doing to access our personal data. We rarely have the talk about why that privacy matters, and that debate seems to be very necessary because the actual worth of privacy seems to be lost common-knowledge.

I'm not concerned that the government somehow has control of my life just because they might or do collect information about my usage habits. The collaborative effort of corporations and government to get this data, along with the generational implications of privacy infringement, is what is concerning.

The balances of power between the government and the populace are becoming tipped irrevocably.

When the implications of lost privacy effect the majority, it's the minority who lose their voice. Loss of privacy protection is loss of protection for the free speech of politicians, press, and corporate bodies. The strokes get broader as the damage is done, and can eventually effect upstart politicians, the educational process, the individuals. These are the lessons of history.

It has nothing to do with your data. It has everything to do with most people's data. Abuse of the tipped scale between government and the people is a generational eventuality, in the absence of a meaningful protection of privacy.

Terrorism has accounted for slightly more than 3000 deaths in the US since September 11th, 2001. My opponent considers this grounds to forfeit privacy, if even for the sake of saving a single of these lives. Most American's agree that the threat of terrorism is significant enough to forfeit all of the types of privacy I've listed thus far.

Motor vehicles have accounted for roughly 500,000 since september 11th, 2001. Most American's would agree that this is a fact of life in the free world and any significant changes to our freedom to drive vehicles would be unacceptable to prevent these deaths.

World War II accounted for 60 to 85 million deaths in just 6 years. Populaces controlled by their government, instead of government's controlled by their populace.

I never insuated that all privacy is ultimately taken away. I just speculate that most of the reasons for retaining privacy as outlined by our founding fathers are completely compromised, now. They recorded, in great detail, the methods of subversion that they were attempting to prevent by writing the Constitution. In the modern era, due to technological advancements and the will of our government, these acts of subversion can be much more effectively executed.

As long ago as the 60's, during JFK's presidency, our CIA was pushing a plan called operation Northwoods. The proposals called for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or other US government operatives to commit acts of terrorism against American civilians and military targets, blaming it on the Cuban government, and using it to justify a war against Cuba. The only person who rejected this proposal was the president. No one was charged for this proposal.

This is the level of malevolence we can expect of our secret intelligence agencies. To assume that our secret intelligence of today has any more of a moral compass.. is a matter of faith.

When we look at the incredible amount of information that advertising agencies are capable of deriving from personal data such as they get from smartphone usage, are we unable to conceive of how this data might be used to influence the populace as a whole?

So long as a pipeline exists for this information to flow from our personal lives to the government and our secret agencies, all of the protections that come along with our right to privacy are lost. Whether we retain that right on paper or not, is moot.

Terrorism, in comparison to the continued corruption of the most powerful military force on this planet , seems a bit of a non-issue. The pressing issue seems to be the lost balance of power occurring in this country. This is not the time to accept authoritarianism. The notion that terrorists pose any significant threat to the well being country is laughable. The concept of terrorism, on the other hand, is doing undermining the checks and balances of our government. More and more power is being funneled from the cities to the states, from the states to the executive branch, and from the individuals to the executive branch. If this isn't threatening, I don't know what is.

Let's not forget those death toll figures. What's really the bigger threat, here?


Eshan13 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


In closing,

On a massive scale, data that can define very specific and seemingly benign personal information is being collected. The government is proactively participating in this collection, and also working very hard through legislation to create pipelines for data to flow from corporations to their data centers.

You can take whatever stance you like on the legitimacy or legality of this, but it has the same intrinsic implications.
To outline those, I could go on at great length. History goes on at great length.

The government proposes it can protect us from terrorists. We generally accept that to be a basic truth. The government proposes that we must compromise on the protections that we levy against the government in order to allow them to protect us from terrorists. We generally accept that to be a basic truth.

In 1962 the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the CIA approved operation Northwoods. The proposals called for the CIA or other US government operatives to commit acts of terrorism against American civilians and military targets, blaming it on the Cuban government, and using it to justify a war against Cuba. Where was the outrage, where were the corrective actions? Lost, after the events of 9/11 that followed our discovery of this proposed operation.

When did the need for government protection against terrorism outweigh the need for fundamental protection against government?

After terrorist attacks; that's when.

After 9/11, San Bernadino, Paris, Chattanooga, the TN Military Shooting, the Washington and New Jersey Killing Spree, the Oklahoma Beheading, the Boston Marathon Bombing, Little Rock, Fort Hood, the Seattle Jewish Federation Shooting, the Los Angeles Airport Shooting

This is when the government says that we must forfeit the protections we levy against them.

Since forfeiting much of this protection against government, how much protection against terrorism have we garnished? Well, that's another debate. NSA Director Keith Alexander gave us the grossly exaggerated number of 54 attacks prevented, while under pressure from a Congressional hearing, following the leaks presented by Edward Snowden. He later retracted this statement, unsurprisingly, after it proven to be a lie. A new analysis of terrorism charges in the US found that the NSA's dragnet domestic surveillance "had no discernible impact" on preventing terrorist acts.

The supposed reason for the ineffectiveness of the NSA, of course, is due to the shackles we place upon their power.
Can you think of anything that might change our minds about the need to restrain the NSA? I certainly can.

You don't need to make any wild accusations about what the government is doing. You just need to look at what they have done, and what they currently have the organization and motive to do. You just need to look at what they're capable of doing.

That, is all you need to see if retaining privacy is more important than forfeiting privacy for the fight against terrorism.

I thank my opponent for the debate and I thank the reader for their time.


Eshan13 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
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