Is Privacy Dead?

This event has already taken place.

Host: Intelligence Squared
Location: Royal Geographic Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR
Speaker: Philip Mudd (via Google+ Hangouts), Sir David Omand, Kenneth Cukier, John Kampfner

So now we know: our spooks and their spooks are hoovering up and exchanging massive amounts of data on our private lives: not just whom we phone and email but the actual content of our communications; not just which websites we visit but what we choose to buy online. No wonder there’s been such a furore. William Hague has already admitted that the spooks are allowed to pry pretty much where they want and now it’s been revealed that the US National Security Agency allows analysts to search our emails and online chats with no prior authorisation. And the big internet companies – Google, Facebook and so on – have been colluding on how best to keep track of us. Our entire political history has been one of reining in the power of the state and here we are saying to it: come on in and look round. Calm down? You must be joking!

That’s the line taken by the blowhards in this debate, screaming about the threat to civil liberties, but are they making a big fuss about nothing? After all we’ve known for years now that technology has made it ridiculously easy to monitor what we get up to. And in the perpetual debate between liberty and security it’s easy to forget that the government’s first duty is to protect its citizens. In the post 9/11 world there simply has to be some kind of trade-off between preserving our privacy and keeping ourselves safe from those who would do us harm.

So is loss of privacy a sacrifice we have to pay for our security, or does it herald a world where fundamental democratic freedoms will no longer exist? Come to the debate at the Royal Geographical Society on September 26th, hear the arguments on both sides and make up your mind for yourself.

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