Free «What Is the Proper Role of Government in the Collection and Governance of Digital Data of Individual Citizens?» Essay Sample

The primary role of any government is to provide a supportive environment, in which citizens can enjoy their freedoms and pursue their aspirations without being subjected to unreasonable restraint. This report aims to conduct an inquiry about the proper role of government in the collection and governance of digital data of individual citizens. To advance the argument regarding this topic, the paper will explore privacy issues related to citizens’ digital data, national security concerns that emerge when governing digital data, and the basic rights of citizens that such a governance must consider. Therefore, the proper role of the government is to ensure and protect citizens’ privacy, provide national security, and prevent the deprivation of citizens’ rights by others.

Privacy Protection

The Constitution of the United States, specifically its 4th Amendment, states that citizens must be secure in their persons, effects, houses, and papers against any unreasonable seizures and searches. Since the formation of the government is based on the constitution, its role must include the protection of the right to privacy when collecting and governing citizens’ digital data.  When the government collects and governs the digital data of citizens, there is a likelihood that the violation of the privacy provisions of the constitution may occur (Cunningham, 2017). Given that the constitution represents the law of the land, the government must act to prevent such violations from happening. Failure to adhere to this provision creates an illegality that may jeopardize the legitimacy of the government. Therefore, it is imperative to explore one of the past occurrences to understand how the violation of the right to privacy may occur. According to Snowden’s leak of information in 2013, the National Security Agency (NSA) had a surveillance program that monitored American citizens without following the provisions of the US Constitution (Mornin, 2014). The program collected digital information about suspected citizens and all individuals in their circles even when these people were not suspects. Therefore, this program violated the right to privacy because it conducted unreasonable searches without probable causes. The case of Snowden has raised doubts in the government’s commitment to the right to privacy (Mornin, 2014). Moreover, this case also highlighted some of the current and future challenges that the government must tackle to secure the privacy of citizens. The collection of digital information is not a crime because it has several benefits when used according to the law. For instance, the government can collect information about citizens’ views about prospective policies and customize them to suit their interests. The collection of such information can be performed on social media platforms, which help the government provide products and services that reflect the needs and preferences of citizens. Given the positive aspects of the collection and governance of digital information, the government must ensure that its utilization does not compromise people’s rights to privacy.

Provision of National Security

The government has a mandate to protect the collective citizenry from threats and aggression of other nations or the groups of people that may curtail citizens’ enjoyment of their freedoms. Therefore, the collection of citizens’ data provides the government with an opportunity to execute its national security role because this information can offer clues and indications of those who may want to harm the country and its interests (Moss & Endicott-Popovsky, 2015). For instance, the monitoring of the activities of suspected terrorists on social media and other Internet platforms can offer hints about their plans (Williams, Burnap, & Sloan, 2017). Some terrorist groups purchase materials to attack the country online. Consequently, tracking and flagging the purchase of such materials by suspected terrorists can provide government agencies with an opportunity to thwart these attacks before they happen (Taylor, Fritsch, Liederbach, & Holt, 2011). Globalization has also contributed to the spread of terrorism.  Terrorists use the Internet to provide vulnerable citizens with instructions regarding the execution of terror attacks in their home countries (Taylor et al., 2011). Such a capability has created urgency for the government to use all available resources to combat this problem. Although the collection of digital information about citizens is the starting point in the fight against global terrorism, this process plays a vital role in identifying vulnerable people and their activities online. The cooperation of security agencies and commercial organizations can help the government target suspects and stop them before they attack. Such a work can involve the sharing of ideas to improve technology and the ways to identify potential threats to national security. For instance, the government could have benefited from the cooperation with eBay in 2016 since the terrorist, who planted bombs in New York and New Jersey, had bought the materials for these bombs on eBay. If security agencies had cooperation agreements with commercial companies, such as eBay, such a purchase of materials could have been flagged. Consequently, security agencies could have monitored the terrorist and stopped him before he could detonate the bombs. From the analysis above, it is clear that the role of the government is to use digital information of citizens to provide them with security without compromising their right to privacy.

Prevention of the Deprivation of Citizens’ Rights by Others

The criminal justice system has the responsibility of ensuring that citizens do not deprive others of their rights. The judiciary branch, which is the third arm of the government, deals with the administration of justice. The collection of data by the government can help improve the work of the justice department to deal with crime (Moss & Endicott-Popovsky, 2015). Thus, judges and police officers make judgment calls in the execution of their duties. Moreover, the latter must predict the behaviors of suspects and thus, determine whether there is probable cause to search them or obtain a warrant. At the same time, judges must make predictions on whether suspects, who have been released on bail, may appear in court when required. Such predictions lack objectivity and they may not be reliable because personal biases and prejudices might lead to the unfair prediction of behavior. Since the government must deal with crime to ensure that all citizens enjoy their rights, its proper role is to use their digital data and computer algorithms to make predictions accurately, thus promoting fairness and reducing crime rates. The analysis of data can help the police determine the areas where crime is likely to occur, which will enable them to focus their resources appropriately (Williams et al., 2017). Although courts have not fully embraced digital data in making their judgments, there is a possibility of relying on such data in the future. A government that truly values its role to prevent crimes and the infringement of peoples’ rights should use its citizens’ digital data to predict crime patterns, which will help reduce the cases of unfair and wrongful incarcerations. The limitations of digital data and analysis tools make the role of the government in the prevention of rights’ violation essential (Cunningham, 2017). If digital data includes such aspects as race or religion, using this information to make the predictions of possible crime suspects is discriminatory and illegal. As such, the government must not abandon its role of ensuring that the use of digital data conforms to the constitutional requirements not to discriminate some people on the basis of their religion or race.


The findings of the report support the hypothesis that the proper role of the government when collecting and governing citizens’ digital data is to protect privacy, provide national security, and prevent the deprivation of rights. Since there is a potential for the violation of privacy in dealing with citizens’ data, the government’s role and mandate is to protect their privacy. The government must also use this data to ensure national security since it is its job, and information has the potential to improve the security of a nation. The government’s role also lies in improving the criminal justice system, thus prevent the deprivation of rights among citizens. Since digital data has the capacity to assist in the improvement of people’s lives, the proper role of the government is to use it legally to promote fairness and accuracy.

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