Yale Global Online: World of Surveillance

Surveillance of the enemy is as old as humanity. From the Chinese classic Sunzi’s The Art of War to Indian Kautilya’s Arthashastra,  rulers have attached great significance to intelligence not only about the enemy but citizen attitudes towards power. The motivation of the rulers has not changed, but the means to conduct surveillance have changed dramatically. Especially during the past three decades technological means to gather the most private and secret information have grown by leaps and bound.  The rise of terrorism by private groups and  individuals has offered justification for expanded surveillance to the detriment of privacy of citizens. One of the unintended consequences of the globalization in communications has been to empower individuals to expose secrets and attract attention to any issue that may trouble them. Such is the case of Edward Snowden, 30, who in June 2013 instigated worldwide debate on modern government surveillance practices. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” said Snowden to the Washington Post. “Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten — and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.”