How much security do we want?

R. William Ayres, interim dean of the Graduate School at Wright State University, wrote a guest column on privacy and security in the Dayton Business Journal:

There’s a lot of conversation about the NSA and recent revelations regarding the U.S. government’s massive collection of data, both domestic and foreign. There is speculation about the leaker and his motives, about the nature of the data being gathered, and about the legality and constitutionality of these efforts.

Many have pointed out that this is hardly a new Obama administration thing, that the Bush administration did many of the same things under the PATRIOT Act — which, although this disappoints some liberals, has helped take some of the partisan sting out of things.

These are all good and important questions. And to some degree, this has revived a much larger question: how much privacy are we willing to give up in exchange for security? That’s a question of governance critical to any age.

What I find missing from the conversation, however, is the other half of that question. We are focused on the how much privacy are we willing to give up part. What we’re not talking about — at least, I haven’t seen it yet — is how much security do we get, or even how much security should we expect.


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