New poll numbers show about two-thirds of people believe it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terror threats than to avoid intruding on personal privacy.
Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the resounding verdict was to investigate all terror threats, even if investigation infringes on personal privacy. Following the revelations of domestic government surveillance by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, a high of 39 percent said the government should not harm privacy.
But after the Paris terrorist attacks and the rise of the Islamic State terror group, 63 percent of the public want more protection over privacy, according to new Washington Post-ABC News poll figures.
In a rare instance of unity, the numbers were nearly even between Republicans and Democrats.
Say we take the poll at face value. Privacy is still more important now than ever.
We've got North Korea looking increasingly as the ones behind the Sony cyberattack, which is said to have cost the company tens of millions in damages. We have China trying to steal everything it can -- just over the weekend, Snowden documents said Chinese spies stole plans for Australia's new F-35 fighter plane. And we have hackers from unknown groups and affiliations attacking us from every angle to turn our stolen bank account information into profits for themselves.
Does now really seem like the best time to compromise on security by calling for encryption to be outlawed, in the process stripping Internet users of their privacy, and opening them up to hacks, attacks, and identity theft?
Over the past few years, laws that have been there to prevent terrorism have been turned against the very people they are there to protect.
In just one example, police in New York and Chicago were using "stingrays" to eavesdrop on protesters during the recent Eric Garner protests. These fake cell stations vacuumed up call data and messages of those within a certain area -- the very vast majority of which remained entirely peaceful while they expressed their right to protest.
On a similar vein, the Obama administration (among other federal agencies -- no surprise that the FBI and NSA have weighed in, too) has hinted strongly that Apple and Google are helping its criminal users evade justice by giving them in-built device encryption. The irony is that it came partly in response to the government pushing over the past two years to clamp down on cellphone crime by including kill-switches and other security features on devices.
Privacy has come to be seen as something people need when they have "something to hide," or used by dissidents and protesters to hide their faces. And with that goes an association and assumption that they are bad people -- the same bad people that want to blow us up in a suicide bombing on a busy street.
No wonder privacy is seen as a bad thing when our perception of it has been skewed.
The reason we'll lose our right to privacy won't be because surveillance has crept up on us without us noticing. It's because so many didn't even realize they benefited from it when they did.