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Blogging background checking and security issues

4.08.2005

Individual Freedom Called Into Question

Suppose the U.S. did adopt a policy of increased surveillance where there was, in theory, a benevolent “Big Brother” that monitored citizen activity. People with nothing to hide have nothing to fear, right? The issue, as presented in a situation where a County Sheriff accessed driving record information for questionable purposes, becomes whether or not personal freedom really is enhanced. The hang up I have with such a system is that there will always, or maybe I should say eventually, be someone who can’t be trusted.

I suspect that, similar to communism, it might be a case where the theory is great but the practical experience of it is awful. It would be wonderful if we could completely trust the government officials who monitored and enforced such a surveillance system. I once heard someone say that a dictatorship is the best form of government, so long as the dictator made wise decisions and cared more for the nation than for himself. Criminals are punished and law-abiding citizens are free to enjoy life. But the reality is that people aren’t perfect and anyone, regardless of how uprightly they live their lives, are highly susceptible to corruption.

Enter democracy. As far as I see, this is the best system for establishing a safe place to live. There is a high degree of transparency, evidenced by the public availability of all kinds of personal information, including criminal records, and strict laws are in place that govern the use of this information. True, there is a lot of wrangling over how to maintain this system as new technologies develop that enable, for example, crimes like identity theft, and it’s easy to start thinking that if we implemented a sweeping change and radically changed the system by moving toward an extreme (extreme openness or extreme confidentiality) that there would be a better solution. However, I tend to think that continuing to struggle along the middle road, as difficult as it is, is the best way to ensure personal freedoms while maintaining a reasonable level of security at all levels. As for the abuse of authority mentioned above, our current system of checks and balances should deal decisively with the offender.

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