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January 2003

Understanding the balance between privacy and security

The 9/11 attacks raised the stakes in the conflict between protecting individual privacy and protecting our physical and digital infrastructure and the lives of our citizens. Security is far more proactive and intrusive, as antiterrorist investigative measures allow government to collect and analyze gigabytes of data on individuals and their online activities. Some believe security at the expense of privacy is un-American and unconstitutional. Others say security must take precedence over all to ensure the safety of the nation. Must national security and privacy clash? Congress has created the Department of Homeland Security with unprecedented powers to collect, correlate and act upon mountains of digital data on individuals. Government and law enforcement officials say this level of monitoring is necessary to cull the intelligence needed to prevent another 9/11. Privacy activists counter that such deep data mining is an unjustified invasion of personal privacy, undermining civil liberties and eroding longstanding constitutional...

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