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Wednesday, December 12 2018

Bruce Schnier on Wholesale Surveillance and the Psychology of Terror


While perusing Bruce Schneier's new weblog, Schneier on Security, (I'm a long time Crypto-Gram subscriber) I found that a couple of issues he raises this month really resonate with the upcoming election. First, an analysis of the psychology of terror alerts, and the follow-up ... the move towards "wholesale" surveillance.

Bruce not only notes an "Interesting essay on the psychology of terrorist alerts" by Philip Zimbardo (Prof. Emeritus of psychology at Stanford, and the man behind the Stanford Prison Experiment), he also has his own commentary: Do Terror Alerts Work? Bruce's commentary is notably less political, but you have to wonder whether or not the state of fear and paranoia created by continually being on an "elevated" threat level is deliberate or not. An aside: I was pleased to know that while the DHS has gifs for elevated, high, and severe, it also has guarded and low.

Somewhat more disturbing to me is the growth of "wholesale" surveillance. In his essay, License Plate "Guns" and Privacy, Bruce discusses the use of license-plate scanners by the New Haven police. (a similar article talks about aerial surveillance) The problem isn't just that the police have more surveillance powers, it's that they can use it widely and indiscriminately, unless we put protections in to place to prevent it. Let's be realistic: do we really want to live in a society where the authorities can monitor everything we do, and we can't get away with anything? Sure, we may be perfectly safe, but we'll also be living in a perfect totalitarian state.

posted by Loki on Thu, 21 Oct 2004 20:17:21 -0500