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Chapter: 

Towards perfect surveillance?

The greatest challenge to the security and privacy dynamics, however, comes from the false negative perception that perfect security is possible. 
We would often agree that governments must prevent known terrorists from boarding planes and therefore we must compare plane manifests with the lists of known terrorists.  But every list of criminals and terrorists is fraught with inaccuracies that have led to gross injustices as we mistake identities.  Then we believe that if we could perfectly identify individuals before they boarded planes, or when they used internet services then we could prevent illegal activities.  But the biometric systems are fraught with errors and identification systems open to abuse.  We then believe that perhaps we must aid governments in identifying the habits of criminals and terrorists by identifying suspect profiles and running these profiles against vast stores of data through the use of data mining.  But these profiles are never perfect, the data mining techniques are fraught with generalisations, and the data that is being mined is often inaccurate. 

When policy makers are finally made aware of these risks they argue that one day the technology will get better and we may then build safe and secure online and real worlds.  But these technologies are not perfectable, as they rely on engineering, not science.  Errors are inherent in these systems, and the amount of cases of abuse continues to rise.  Even if the systems were perfectible, it is likely that the social costs and the risks to individual liberties would be considered too great.  In the mean time, the false hope of increased security has in fact reduced security as new systems are circumscribed with greater efficiency by criminal elements, and leave innocent individuals and groups at risk.