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?


  1. Matt Wavle

    The right to say "NO!", helping establish a boundary of freedom…  well put.

    We have no right to look in on the private dealings of other people, even if we form into a gang and call it "the government".

    Most people that I have told about Snowden have never heard anything about him. Most of the people who have heard of him think he is a traitor who should be executed or imprisoned. Democracy fails when the voters are ignorant of real issues. 

  3. Jeremy Harding

    … And of course, all they’re trying to do is make an example of him, I.E.: "What we’ll do to Snowden we’ll also do to you if you step out of line. Watch your step." They don’t want us talking, and they’ll take measures to shut us up if they feel they need to. How else could they "secure" this "free society"?

  4. sweeper240

    Another way to deal with idiots trying to spy on you, treat them like the idiots they are and make it virtually impossible to get to any information of substance.
    What to know how?

  5. Hunter Markson

    I wonder how people would feel about giving their search history to their parents or their most recent text messages to their ex

  6. Lukas Koube

    the problem is that the average american cant do anything about this problem. furthermore, even if a large majority of americans did vote on this issue, a lot of it is done behind closed doors. most americans would like this to change, but there is nothing they can do about it.

  7. Grady Flanagan

    I would venture to say that the vast majority of people would vote for security over freedom, especially once the spin machine gets going.

  8. bosthegreat

    We need to take a close look at our second amendment and how it relates to security. “Amendment II

    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I do not believe that we follow the second amendment in the US. Not to be disrespectful to our veterans it is not their fault. The politicians however should be offended by this. We do not have a well regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state. We have an imperialistic military. Compare that to Switzerland. All male citizens over the age of 18 are in their military. They keep their service weapons home for quick access if it is ever needed. So not only do they have a gun in almost every home in Switzerland but they are also well trained in how to use them. Now, when was the last time Switzerland was attacked? I do not believe that the government owns us and therefor I do not believe that we should be forced into the military. That said, if our politicians own children were sent to fight in all of these foreign wars that only cause hatred towards us perhaps they would be a little more cautious about attacking other countries.

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