This post previously appeared on the student-run blog for my course ‘Critical Security Studies’. The course ran over the summer semester of 2017 at the Institute for Political Science at the University of Tübingen. To access this site, please click here.
THIS HOUSE BELIEVES THAT SECURITY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PRIVACY
This week marked the final seminar of our summer semester course on ‘Critical Security Studies’. To round things off, students took part in a class debate that looked at the tensions between on the one hand, the imperative for security in a period of increased instability, and on the other, the need for personal privacy. Students were tasked with representing a number of societal interests, including those of government, commerce, and members of the public.
Representatives for each group began by first preparing a 5 minute outline of their position before the floor was opened for discussion. Challenges were then made across the represented organisations regarding the political implications of different stances.
Topic highlights included: challenges over who/what the referent objects of security were (national security, personal security, economic security, environmental security, etc.), as well as what the threats perceived to necessitate particular security measures entailed; questions over the capacity of governments and regulating bodies to keep up with technological change and adequately legislate/regulate the behaviour of corporations and intelligence agencies; the capacity of these organisations to protect personal data from hackers and state-supported cyber attacks; fears over the marginalisation and vilification of certain social groups through these methods, the lack of transparency and accountability within the processes of sovereign decision making (including in the formation of security algorithms, the collection of data, and the enforcement of these decisions); the implications of the position ‘you have nothing to worry if you are not doing anything wrong’; and the distinction between ‘feeling secure’ and ‘being secure’, which entailed a fascinating and detailed student critique of what it actually means to ‘be secure’.
Discussion was brisk and light-hearted (albeit with a meaningful punch), and the debate topped off what has been a thoroughly stimulating and enjoyable set of conversations that have taken place over the previous thirteen weeks of this seminar series.