The judgment by the Court of Justice for the European Union has provoked a hostile reaction from U.S. national security and privacy experts. But it’s a wake-up call for how Americans should understand national security and surveillance in a world of global information networks.
With the rise of modern technologies, the scope and scale of government surveillance has exploded. The use of digital communication has made communication more efficient, but also much more vulnerable. Governments, meanwhile, are increasing their capacity to exploit these vulnerabilities, and companies, their ability to thwart them. Both the PATRIOT act and the Snowden disclosures pushed the issue to the front of the national conversation. Today, the legal and policy debate—over what kind of surveillance tools are acceptable, against whom, and with with whose authorization—continues in full force.