In this zero-sum game, we’re all losers

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“We have a saying in this business: ‘Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.’”

This quote is attributed to Ed Giorgio, a former chief code breaker at the National Security Agency and current security consultant who is working on a plan proposed by the American government to closely monitor all Internet traffic in order to protect their information architecture from attack.

It’s not an uncommon belief among security experts that privacy and security are at opposite ends of a spectrum – in order to have one, you have to give up the other.

The problem with this perspective, though, is that it ignores the complementary nature of the two. As security guru Bruce Schneier responds, “Privacy is part of our security against government abuse.”

Worse, perpetuating this myth forces people to take one side over the other. If you want to protect your country from a crippling attack on its information architecture, you shouldn’t mind having your Google searches and personal emails scanned – or so the logic goes. The flip side of this logic implicates privacy advocates and defenders of civil liberty as ambivalent to national security concerns, or worse, traitors to their country.

It seems the better approach is to recognize that privacy and security can happily co-exist and that governments can develop policies that respect and protect the privacy of its citizens while ensuring national security against the threat of attack.

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