The detail of global surveillance disclosures leaked by Edward Snowden casts doubts on the ethics of government surveillance. The abuse of surveillance will lead to the loss of personal privacy, affect people’s daily life and make government lose their credibility. Nevertheless, the data and information collected by government surveillance contribute a lot to the prevention of crime and terrorism as well. The research results based on data may improve public wealth and save more lives in the long run (Netivist, 2014). One solution that could avoid the abuse of technique is to set up a third agency to supervise the behavior of government so that unnecessary personal information disclosure could be avoided.
Government surveillance without appropriate supervision and assessment will decrease people’s participation rate in the discussion of social issue without decreasing crime rate as expected. What’s more, it could even threat the personal safety of every member in the society. As an instance, in order to recognize, combat cyberbullying and cybercrime, South Korean government published real name system law in 2008 and intended to crack down on rumors on the internet as well as cell phone. However, in 2008, malicious comments only decreased by 0.9 point and at the same time, the average number of participants in the online forum decreased from 2585 to 737 based on IP address (Netease, 2018). It showed that this kind of government surveillance does not protect people from crime and cyberbullying but decreased online involvement. Finally, South Korean government ruled that real name system was unconstitutional and abandoned it in 2012 (Kim, K. J, 2012). Additionally, in September 2018, Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) promulgated measures to make creators of online chat groups such as QQ and WeChat liable for information other users shared in the group. Just in the same month, Liu Pengfei, the creator of a WeChat group was arrested for discussing political and social issues in the group (World Report, 2018). China government’s this policy is offensive on freedom of expression and made Chinese reflect on trustworthiness of their government. In these issues, governments took radical policies about surveillance without enough evaluation and supervision, and not only the people’s personal safety was not improved by the policies, but also some innocent people became the victim of politics and human right was damaged. This disadvantage should be considered and avoided during the establishment and execution of the new systems and policies of surveillance.
However, with suitable using, surveillance technique could also be a powerful weapon against terrorism and crime. In 2017, FBI successfully arrested a man who planned Christmas terror attack by detecting his pro-ISIS and pro-terrorism content posted on Facebook.(Kgo, 2017) And not just limited to comment and message, even the search history is also helpful for tracking the suspects. In 2008, a computer engineer named Brad Cooper killed his wife. His wife was initially reported as missing for two months until a random person discovered her body. At first, there was no evidence that indicated who was the murder, but soon Cooper’s google map search history showed that he searched and zoomed in the specific location where his wife’s body was discovered. This strong indicator helped the police to quickly target Cooper and started investigating him, and Cooper later committed his crime. Even though the search history didn’t prevent this murder, the google map search history did help the investigation process (Blythe, A., & Blythe, A, 2019). Furthermore, the more intriguing things of government surveillance includes its contribution to social research. With the technology of learning algorithm technique, improving marketing algorithm by collecting and monitoring personal data is already a common phenomenon in industry. Government could also apply these techniques to the data they get through surveillance to confirm suspicious suspect or even prevent their crime behavior in advance. Finally, from the result of opinion poll, due to the increasing threat of terrorism, nowadays the public have been more open to the surveillance like phone tracking though it may introduce on privacy. Pew research center’s research in 2018 shows that 56% of Americans agreed that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans was an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, and 45% of Americans even said government should be able to monitor everyone’s e-mail and other activities if officials said this might prevent future terrorist attacks. (Pew Research, 2013) There are many people value safety over privacy and will agree with government surveillance.
To obtain the benefit of government surveillance while minimizing the deficiencies of it at the same time, a trustworthy and reliable third-party agency is necessary. To achieve the balance of power, technique professionals and social workers who are independent on the government could make up a team, assess the reliability and feasibility from both the perspectives of ethical and technical during the establishment of the new policy. Regular negotiation and checking are also necessary, which could make sure that sensitive personal data have been deleted on time and no innocent people’s names are listed in the surveillance sheet. When the government’s behaviors are doubted to be unconstitutional and unethical, team consisting of legal works should realize it on time and stop government’s behavior by suing government in court. Moreover, government should set up the forum and encourage the public to be involved in the discussion of rationality of government surveillance. Questionnaires could be conducted regularly to help government understand the current public opinion and change the implementation of policies correspondingly. All the companies which help the government and are involved in the surveillance are also responsible for informing their users the existence of surveillance before they use their product. Those company should take their responsibility and protect their use from the abuse of government surveillance by law and techniques.
As a summary, the disadvantages of government surveillance including the decrease of people’s trust of government and increasing threat of people’s personal safety due to the abuse of power. On the contrary, appropriate government surveillance will combat terrorism and crime strongly and improve the public welfare in the long run by the research based on those collected data. The crucial thing of fully making use of government surveillance is to ensure the supervision of government’s behavior and achieve the mutual supervision between government, companies and individuals.