Across the US, states are on the verge of reversing decades-old laws about homosexual relationships and marijuana use. If the old laws could have been perfectly enforced through surveillance, society would never have reached the point where the majority of citizens thought those things were okay. There has to be a period where they are still illegal yet increasingly tolerated, so that people can look around and say, “You know, that wasn’t so bad.” Yes, the process takes decades, but it’s a process that can’t happen without lawbreaking. Frank Zappa said something similar in 1971: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”
The perfect enforcement that comes with ubiquitous government surveillance chills this process. We need imperfect security — systems that free people to try new things, much the way off-the-record brainstorming sessions loosen inhibitions and foster creativity. If we don’t have that, we can’t slowly move from a thing’s being illegal and not okay, to illegal and not sure, to illegal and probably okay, and finally to legal.
This is an important point. Freedoms we now take for granted were often at one time viewed as threatening or even criminal by the past power structure. Those changes might never have happened if the authorities had been able to achieve social control through surveillance.
Pages 97 and 98, Data and Goliath
Via Mass Surveillance Silences Minority Opinions
[This line of thought can be extended to many other victimless crimes still on the books from gun “crimes” to gambling, social nudity, sex toys, and various activities involving consenting adults.
The counter point is that with near perfect surveillance political corruption, murder, terrorism, and other horrible crimes could be significantly reduced. So the question becomes, “How do you balance the tradeoffs?”
It appears to me the greatest threats to society come government (look at the number of murders committed in the 20th Century by governments against their own citizens as opposed to murders committed by citizens on each other). Hence as a “common-sense good first step” I am of the opinion that greatly enhanced surveillance for government employees is a good thing. Implement the most extreme surveillance practical for politicians and others in positions of power. Encrypt it and store it securely. But if they are accused of wrongdoing their data comes out of storage and is reviewed for evidence of criminal activity. The rational could be, “With great power comes great responsibility. With great responsibility comes great oversight.”—Joe]