Yes, it is possible to push back against surveillance expansion, and reclaim ground in the battle for privacy from government snooping. The news out of Seattle is proof of this:
In 2013, the Seattle PD installed a “wireless mesh network” with $3.6 million in grants from the Department of Homeland Security. This network consists of dozens of surveillance cameras, along with 158 “wireless access points”: small, white boxes installed on utility poles. This system can continuously track any wireless device within its perimeter, meaning it can track everyone with a cellphone. Once the ACLU of Washington caught wind of the program, along with local privacy advocacy groups, outcry ensued, and the Seattle PD deactivated the system “until city council approves a draft (privacy) policy and until there’s an opportunity for vigorous public debate.”
Now the city is spending $150,000 to have the entire network dismantled.
A big problem with programs like these is the fact that police departments across the country are setting up this technology with little oversight and no debate whatsoever. Another big problem is the fact that a federal department is providing funding for local police. Local police departments should be funded by the community they serve. That connection creates accountability. The argument is identical to the argument against foreign aid: The foreign aid is given to the foreign government, severing that government’s ties to the people they rule. Corruption and tyranny shortly emerge like the plague, with similar results.
The biggest objection, however, is that this technology violates our most fundamental capacity for self-preservation as a species: the ability to hide from our own government. The ability to live our lives unencumbered by the knowledge that someone within our government may be watching.
Total surveillance isn’t inevitable. The death of liberty isn’t inevitable, although every government in history has developed highly sophisticated web of propaganda to make it seem so. It is possible to recover ground, if only a small minority of organized, intelligent, and stubborn activists refuse to give up.