|“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin||OR||People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. – George Orwell|
I wonder how George Orwell would feel about America today. A number of writers have continuously written about the dismantling of America’s privacy in the name of safety and to fight terrorism is akin to the infamous Big Brother from the science fiction novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Not suggesting that our government has taken total control of our lives by any means, especially compared to many other totalitarian regimes that exist today; but in terms of our privacy, advocates decry that more and more of our rights are disappearing to the point we will soon have a faint remembrance of privacy is used to be like. The definition of privacy reads, the “state or condition of being free from being observed by other people”. (Source). But privacy involves so much more than that now since technology allows us to have self-identifying data which for some needs to protected, but this data is often be shared, downloaded, used in marketing tools, bought and sold like cattle. It is no longer just our actions and thoughts, we are data, and it’s worth a pretty penny. This self-identifying information used to just center around our social security number, birth certificate, tax information, etc. but now it is our preferences, shopping habits, emails, thoughts, dreams; if you really think about it, it’s almost everything that we can produce, any thought or action can define us, and it can be captured in some sort of way.
Now usually I have an opinion, but I am on the fence with this one, as I believe as many other Americans and Millennials alike. It’s not that we don’t care, I think it’s matter of actual double mindedness. I think our privacy is important and a fundamental freedom given to us by our founding fathers. But in the same breath, I believe Americans’ safety is important to the survival of this country. This dialogue has been going on since 9/11 and the Patriot Act first emerged, then Facebook, Google, and other companies came along that can track just about anything. As a sidenote: I am sure there were other mechanisms that could track our internet behavior, but those internet sites are mechanisms that we use willingly, and is not quite an invasion of our privacy. So we know these companies report our self-identifying to the government, should this raise a red flag in our heads OR maybe the recent revealing of YET another surveillance program that sifts through the American people’s data will do.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the U.S. Marshals have a surveillance program that targets Americans cellphones in order to catch criminals. So many questions come to my mind when I heard about it. Do I care? Are they tracking my information? Do we need it? OR why the hell did the Wall Street Journal even release the information! Did I mention the program has been going on for seven years?
So here’s the quick run down: (If you’re visual, click here)
U.S. Marshalls are using small planes, to carry these things called dirty boxes which act like fake cell phone towers that can trigger thousands of personal identifying information from cell phones. (source) This information allows officials to catch criminals as close as three yards. When the dirty box locates the criminal, the dirty boxes release the general public’s information. The program is supposed to look for fugitives, drug dealers, and other serious criminal offenders. It’s coming under scrutiny, because through the criminal seeking process it snags millions of Americans’ data. The U.S. Marshals denied the existence of the program, and stated, “The Marshals’ investigative techniques are deployed “only in furtherance of ordinary law-enforcement operations, such as the apprehension of wanted individuals, and not to conduct domestic surveillance or intelligence gathering,’’ . (source)
Which is their way of saying that they do not keep information of regular law-abiding citizens. At first glance, I get it, catching criminals is a good thing, because they don’t really want to know what’s in my emails or if I have naked pictures but THEN they also indicated that the FCC knew nothing about the program. The Federal Communications Commission which monitors the airwaves, knew NOTHING. AND this is where I get on the side of the privacy diehards. I just don’t believe that the FCC would have no idea about this program, or if it was classified above the ENTIRE agency’s pay grade, that they would not find out eventually, by doing their,um, job? Maybe not, apparently the technology used by the U.S. Marshalls is the most sophisticated of it’s kind. But here’s the thing, I either feel they are lying about the FCC not knowing, which would make me think, that there are lying about a number of other things OR they did not notify any officials in the FCC, because there are pulling things that they don’t want us to know about. If the program is doing what they actually says its doing, surely a top official is aware of the program. This is where my frustration lies. You want to mess with my privacy, but there is no honesty surrounding what is actually going on, and if it was as top secret as it should be, how are journalists able to uncover the information in the first place! and if you were only doing what was necessary, employees would not be disgusted by the behavior and leaking the information to journalists.Edward Snowden, who I believe is a traitor for the way he unveiled the information, put it like this, “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building” (Source) And that’s the hypocrisy, I find with the way privacy is dealt with. Mr. Snowden you didn’t want the government to destroy privacy, yet you release private information?At the same token, the governments say that are not doing anything illegal, yet their actions and behaviors seem so suspicious!
In a poll, by Quinnipiac University, in January 2014, they asked if the anti-terrorism program is too much of an intrusion into American’s personal privacy or not? 57% of people said it was too much of an intrusion, and that was 4% higher than it was 6 months prior in 2013. (source) . So will this concern continue to increase? Megan Meagher, director of Red Peak Youth, a branding and design agency that connects brands with the Millennial mindset, said it best that “we are at a unique turning point where the waters of online privacy are only just beginning to be navigated by the government, by companies and by consumers. For Millennials, a generation that lives its life online, the issue of consumer privacy and data use won’t go away. Brands that take a stand now and join the conversation proactively will set the stage for a lifelong relationship with their customers built on trust and respect.” (source)
She really say’s it exactly right. Whatever is or going to happen around privacy, we need to be paying attention. Not just because “Big Brother” is watching, but we are still at point where what happens on the world of privacy matters, and some power is still in our hands, but it may slowly slip out of our hands if we continue to let the status quo stand. I want my safety and life continued to be protected, but at what cost? Maybe we need to give it a serious thought.