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Three concepts of surveillance in the National Surveillance State

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Balkinization – Three concepts of surveillance in the National Surveillance State:

In this article with Sandy Levinson and on the pages of this blog I’ve [Professor Balkin] been arguing that the United States is gradually moving from a National Security State to a National Surveillance State, which uses new information technologies and both public action and private cooperation to govern through the collection, collation, and analysis of information obtained through a wide variety of surveillance practices. The question is now whether we will have such a state, but what kind of state it will be, and whether it adequately protects personal freedoms and civic equality. It is important to recognize that the National Surveillance State is not just a project of the national government, but also state and local governments, who will use tools of surveillance for many different purposes. It also involves surveillance by private actors, including most notably businesses, who will use surveillance to identify potential customers, provide goods and services, and sell information both to other private entities and to the government. In this way the National Surveillance State promises to offer much more technologically sophisticated and pervasive forms of surveillance than we saw in its predecessor, the National Security State. This in itself is not cause for despair, but it does suggest that we need to rethink how to protect valuable liberties in this changing environment of public governance and private business.