Jennifer Granick on spying: ‘The more we collect, the less we know’ (Q&A)

"“Spying is thriving” because little is understood about how pervasive it is.

So writes Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford Law School, in her new book, American Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care, and What to Do About It. Modern technology makes spying easy, modern business models encourage trading personal information for cool features, and federal agencies have broad approval—and little resistance—to collect nearly as much information on people as possible.

Granick’s book raises the questions: In the post-9/11, post-Snowden world, how much government surveillance is too much? What lines should be drawn, if any, to protect the rights of private citizens?

“We need a comprehensive public investigation into what American spies are doing in our name, and we need far stronger regulation of surveillance activities to protect innocent people’s privacy and to guard against abuses of sensitive, personal data,” she says in her book’s introduction.

Surveillance has a chilling effect on American democracy and the freedom of speech that resides at its heart, Granick says. (And multiple studies over the past few years support this assertion.) She also argues that ongoing violations of people’s privacy eliminates space required for political evolution and creative thinking."