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Opinion

Germans don’t be British

I always thought the UK was this place at the edge of Europe where people have become (close to) indifferent when it comes to the extent of how much the state knows about the individual. Being in the view of over 200 cameras when moving around London is something one has come to ignore or accept. The fact that ‘security agencies’ do not simply stick to visually tracing you on the street, but also find their way into (almost) all areas of our lives, is something those interested in the subject had a hunch about and now everyone knows.

The level of outrage, in whatever form (be it in words like these, votes for pirates or actions on the street), has been astonishingly small. Astonishing with regards to mainland Europe. Not astonishing at all in the UK. Years of repeated talk of the threat of terrorism undoubtedly have had an effect. The force with which those who hold current levels of surveillance to be dangerous are attacked now, however shows how far we have come. When the Prime Minister can indirectly accuse The Guardian of helping terrorists with NSA/GCHQ revelations during Prime Minister’s Questions and no one dares to raise the question whether current surveillance levels themselves do not pose a threat to society, more than one step has been taken down a truly dark path.

Thankfully this is not the situation that countries like Germany experience. Such a situation would not be imaginable in Parliament at the moment. At least there would be an acknowledgment that the current situation is problematic. Real action beyond such acknowledgments has so far however also not materialised. It is not only German politicians who are to blame here though. A recent poll has found that 3/4 of Germans are not worried about the recent NSA revelations. Is it because people generally do not mind being spied upon? Do they see the surveillance as for a just and necessary cause? Or do they simply believe the tale that as long as the technological capabilities are not there to evaluate all the collected data, there is nothing to fear?

Whichever reason it might be, they are all worrying in their own right. One should be worried about surveillance if one has an interest in upholding a distinction between the public and the private, the good of the community and the right of the self. One should have a more nuanced view of ‘terrorism’ so as not to believe that ever increasing state surveillance is the means to solve this undoubtedly existent problem. And one should not be so naive to think that current limits on what is possible technologically will continue to exist in the future. They will not.

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