Privacy SOS

Rejecting the ‘beige authoritarian landscape’ in favor of messy, colorful, open society

Who cares if the government spies on everyone all the time? You should, if you want to live in an interesting world. 

Psychology forewarns us that a future of universal surveillance will be a world bereft of anything sufficiently interesting to spy on – a beige authoritarian landscape in which we lose the ability to relax, innovate, or take risks. A world in which the definition of "appropriate" thought and behaviour becomes so narrow that even the most pedantic norm violations are met with exclusion or punishment. A world in which we may even surrender our very last line of defence – the ability to look back and ask: Why did we do this to ourselves?

People like me regularly say that surveillance is corrosive to democracy because it limits the range of acceptable speech and political action, making it harder and harder for our society to progress and become more just. 

But a ubiquitous surveillance regime also has the effect of making life less interesting, less colorful, and less compelling. When we at the ACLU say that freedom is more fun than the alternative, we are completely serious.

I don't want to live in a beige authoritarian landscape. I hope you, don't, either.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.