Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”. How relevant is this today? Should the freedom to privacy be given up for safety and security, now that we have physical threats like terrorism and online threats like identity theft?

We began by discussing our thoughts on physical privacy, such as TSA Security at airports, and all agree it is somewhat of a necessary evil. But when the discussion shifted to online privacy, the tone shifted. We all agreed that things like the USA PATRIOT Act, which authorized the government surveillance of private citizens with no warrant, were many steps too far.

Besides just government surveillance, we are also wary of private surveillance. It’s understandably scary when Google recommends a search result based on something you mentioned earlier or when you realize that your Alexa is always on and remembers what you say for later. Sure, it’s for “better tailoring our experience”, but is it worth it?

We finished by talking about what steps we’ve personally taken to protect ourselves from spying. Some of us tried (and failed) to use alternative services like DuckDuckGo instead of Google, while others did simpler things like putting tape over their camera or always keeping Snapchat’s Ghost Mode enabled. But it’s hard to tell if this even works, or if these companies and governments still have ways of finding out what we’re doing.