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No Means No: The NSA, Edward Snowden, and Privacy

When Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the National Security Agency (NSA) and other agencies were looking into the lives of every American, many people were shocked. While claiming to protect us from crime and terrorism, says Professor James Otteson, the government has been recording every digital transmission we make. They are keeping a record of every email, tweet, phone call, Facebook post, and online purchase. Things we may have thought were private are not safe from the government’s watch.

Should we be alarmed? Some say they don’t care that the government is spying on them because they haven’t done anything illegal. Prof. Otteson disagrees. He says the reason we should worry about these invasions of privacy is because they rob us of the right to say no. When we are able to say no—when a slave can say no to the slave-holder or a serf can say no to a lord, or a child can say no to a bully–we establish a boundary of freedom. This is why privacy is important.

Have you thought much about how you value your privacy from the government? Did Snowden’s revelation cause you to think differently about what the government is doing? Is privacy a bigger priority for you today than it was before Snowden’s revelation? Why or why not?

The Ed Snowden Interview (video): The full official interview with now-famous whistleblower Edward Snowden


Obama Addresses NSA Uproar (video): President Barack Obama discusses, explains, and defends the NSA surveillance programs


Timeline of NSA Domestic Spying [Infographic]: A useful timeline of the NSA surveillance scandal


Cost-Benefit Analysis of NSA Surveillance Says It’s Simply Not Worth It [blog post]: Well, the title says it all…


The Other Side of the Surveillance Story [article]: A Washington Post article explaining the defense of the NSA program by top officials


No Means No: The NSA, Edward Snowden, and Privacy
We have a serious and growing problem in this country. We’ve been asleep too long about our privacy. And when we’ve taken something for granted, we may not appreciate it until it’s taken away.
When Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been looking into the lives of every American, many people were shocked. Under the guise of protecting us from terrorism and crime, government agencies have dramatically expanded the spying that they do on us, on you, on me.
The NSA and other agencies now record every single email, phone call, Facebook post, tweet, purchase—every digital transmission you make no matter how personal or private you thought it was. No matter how anonymous you thought it was. No matter how much you think it’s no one else's business.
Some people say that they don’t care that the government is spying on us, because if they’re innocent, what do they have to fear? But the real worry about invasions of our privacy is that it robs us of the power to say no. When the slave can say no to the slave holder, when the serf can say no to the lord, when the child can say no to the bully—that’s when each of them has established a boundary of freedom. That’s really the importance of privacy.

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