The U.S. government’s interest in obtaining information about the formation of ideas and social groups extends into the present. In 1997, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sought the identities of Arizona residents who purchased a book on how to grow marijuana. In 1998, Kenneth Starr subpoenaed Monica Lewinsky‘s book purchase records. In 2006, the U.S. attorney subpoenaed Amazon for the user book purchase records of more than twenty-four thousand people. The Internal Revenue Service recently asked nonprofits for reading lists. In response, members of the Tea Party, a conservative American political movement, sent the Constitution. (…) And in 2016, lawmakers were attempting to advance legislation that would allow the FBI to obtain Internet browsing information without a warrant, using far less protective national security letters. FBI Director James Comey described this as the bureau’s top legislative priority for the year.
Surveillance asserts control over intellectual and social freedom by taking advantage of human propensities for both conformity and fear. Surveillance threatens intellectual and social freedom when a person fears that there will be retaliation for membership in a particular group, or identification with particular ideas. Surveillance also threatens intellectual and social freedom by exploiting human inclinations toward conformity with group norms. It is not the case that people change their habits and minds only when threatened with physical violence or economic repercussions. People also change their minds and behavior when they think somebody is watching them, and that their behavior deviates from group norms. Observing a phenomenon called the „spiral of silence,” researchers have shown that individuals are less likely to speak up if they believe they are in the minority. Surveillance thus threatens social and intellectual freedom not only because individuals may choose to dissociate from ideas and groups out of fear of retaliation, but because individuals will often eschew minority viewpoints and affiliations if they believe they are being watched. (s.n. – M. M.-B.)
Margot E. Kaminski
(Intellectual and Social Freedom în The Cambridge Handbook of Surveillance Law (coord. D. Gray, S. E. Henderson, ed. Cambridge, 2017, la pp. 473-474)