In June of 2013, the global public latched its eyes onto America as we dug up our old copies of “1984” and surreptitiously eyed our computers’ webcams. We learned what many had long suspected — the National Security Agency collects and stores troves of data on international and domestic targets alike without warrant or, seemingly, discretion.
Since the initial leaks, we have learned much about the ever-watchful eye of Big Brother. The constitutional argument against this surveillance typically focuses on the Fourth Amendment right to protection against unlawful search and seizure. However, it is at least as important to consider the toll on our right to express and associate freely, without any government agency peering over our shoulders or, worse, digging through our belongings.
Supporters of the NSA’s dragnet surveillance argue that no harm can come from these tactics provided that you have “nothing to hide.” In order to address this nonchalant or blindly trusting population, perhaps the conversation should shift focus from the data collected to the collecting itself. Is there an intrinsic harm solely in the act of surveillance?