One of the more amazing comments made the other night at the Rochester Issues Forum program about privacy and surveillance in the U.S. was this, by Don Gemberling, a Minnesota activist on open meetings and open records:
"The rest of the world is more respectful of privacy" rights than the United States.
I repeated that line back to Don, saying, "I just want to make sure I understand what you said," and he was fine with that formulation -- that "the rest of the world" does more to protect the rights of citizens when it comes to surveillance, privacy, etc., maybe to include open records, transparency in government -- I'm not sure how far Don wanted to take that train of thought.
OK, the U.S. has its issues regarding privacy and surveillance, but seriously, people like Don don't help their cause when they make out-there assertions such as that. I'm sure you can find a few progressive countries don't mess around with privacy rights or spy on their citizens, largely because they're not superpowers and they have some luxuries that we don't.
I'm also quite sure there are a lot more countries that don't bother with niceties such as well-established civil protections, surveillance courts, a genuinely free press, etc.
Don's comment ranked right up there with the assertion made at the meeting that Skype is spying on everyone who uses it.