Giving up Privacy for Essential Safety in the modern age

Canada's Parliament recently passed a bill, called C-51, from the ruling Conservative Party, giving new powers to our spy agency.

I know C-51 is about far more than privacy and even liberty, but this is the aspect I am choosing to discuss here because it’s what interests me most.  The specifics of the bill are tiresome - I suppose that’s why I didn’t become a lawyer.  I do generally agree with the impression that the bill is ham-fisted and doesn’t do a good job of what it’s supposed to achieve.

Individual rights should not be compromised over the vague threat of terrorism.  The obvious quote here is the Benjamin Franklin standard:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

That said, if we are arriving at a technological point where any individual can cheaply produce weapons that can threaten many others, on a scale never before seen, perhaps privacy is a luxury we can no longer afford.  In the past a lone crazy person could only get his hands on a grenade, or a machine gun, or some explosives.  But what if today’s crazy or evil people could easily get ahold of the equipment and plans needed to engineer a virus that kills half the people on the planet?

Source:  Bas van Oerle

In that case, perhaps it’s necessary to grant our spy agencies broad powers, to monitor people all the time.  Giving that much power to a group of people has its own dangers, of course.  The danger is they might abuse their information to embarrass, harass, or otherwise harm innocent individuals of their choosing.  This is in addition to the more abstract or emotional harm done to people who don’t enjoy strangers snooping on their affairs.

Perhaps to mitigate this secondary danger, then, all information should be made public, so that the government doesn’t have a monopoly on it.  It would radically change society, since no one could do anything without others knowing.  Adultery, crime, fraud, would all cease.  But perhaps celebrities would get harassed more often since their locations would be known.  Perhaps not.  Hard to say.  It would be a strange world, but it might have to be the one we make, if Armageddon so easily follows the granting to anyone of even a modicum of privacy.

Thus, my prediction for the future is that advocates of privacy will completely lose the battle.