Passage of the “Protecting Cyber Networks Act” and attempts to reauthorize the unmodified Patriot Act, which preserves the NSA’s supposedly legal authority to amass domestic telephone records, put privacy rights back into the spotlight. Where software conglomerate Google has chosen to encrypt user data in order to protect it from criminals and governments alike, the US government’s efforts make it easier for businesses to share data, whether for security or profit, that could otherwise be rendered inaccessible to anyone wishing to abuse information technology.
Following the logical end of this legislative trail, the US government will eventually attempt to compel businesses to store and share data with federal agencies instead of securing personal data. The implications of this trend, which neglects privacy concerns in favor of intelligence gathering, is a world economy and community increasingly dependent on a perpetually insecure telecommunications network that empowers countries like Iran to destabilize critical civil infrastructure and abusive governments to violent the rights of individuals.
Furthermore, privacy rights are not the only rights under scrutiny. On April 22, 2014, forty contracted workers walked out of the US Senate to join 1,000 protestors who want the minimum wage for government contractors raised to $15 dollars per hour. This, of course, is happening with the backdrop of legislative efforts to push through the latest free trade agreement, TPP. In fact, events from police shootings to climate change are demanding answers to the simply question: what are our rights.
In truth, no one truly has any rights. The rights we enjoy come from the ability and willingness of society to tolerate and protect the rights we decide we have. In a modern country, government is expected to honor and protect the rights afforded to a population according to their constitutions and laws. In the modern International Community, treaty law extends certain rights to all individuals and governments. Ultimately, guaranteeing our rights relies on our willingness and our ability to defend them from those who do not respect them.
“Might makes right” is a natural law that humans can only be escaped by building a civilization where the might of the People safeguards the rights everyone expects to enjoy. Law, in turn, exists to balance the rights and interests of a population in order to secure those rights. It is not, however, suppose to be a means for government or special interest groups to legitimately suppress the rights of the individual while rights do not exist to protect people from the consequences of their wrongdoing.
Sadly, the world is filled with examples where community leaders have not technically broken any laws, yet the communities have been hurt by their wrongdoing. It would, however, be wise for those in the NSA and business community who fail to respect the interests and rights of others to recognize people will only respect their self-proclaimed rights to do wrong for so long.
Government, laws, and politics exist to offer people peaceful alternatives to violence and other socially destructive acts when they need to resolve their grievances with others. Hijacking these social institutions to suppress the interests of people and “legally” violate their rights only undermines the benefits people get from respecting government, laws, and the political process. In other words, people will eventually stop respecting the legal system and take justice into their own hands.
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