Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Once we willingly give it up: we're never going to get it back!

In today's high tech, digital world there really is no such thing as true 'privacy'.  I've always known and accepted this on some level.  Forgoing a certain level of privacy is just the price we pay for this technology we all seem to be addicted to.  The latter being said, you can't spend all your time worrying about invasions into your personal privacy, right?  You just have to live a good, relatively clean life, and hope that there is just so-oooooooo much information out there that you and yours will remain forever lost in the echoes.

Myself, aside from a lot of pain, I've got nothing to hide.  I would rather some people who hurt me from my past were never able find me again, but I know in my heart that if they truly wanted to they could find me once again.  I guess, for the time being, we should be thankful our own private thoughts (ones inside our head) still remain our very own, right?  After all, the United States is supposed to be one of the greatest nations on the planet and the current U.S. government administration claims that it is ... has been, will remain ... the "most transparent administration in the history of the U.S.", so we U.S. citizens have nothing to worry about?

Or so we thought ... In light of recent revelations these past few days regarding "data collecting" of U.S. citizens' private information (i.e., phone records, emails, and other social media messaging and posted digital content) for "future use as needed", a government surveillance program known as PRISM and a new NSA data storage facility, coming on-line in Salt Lake City Utah (Dark Star), capable of storing yottabytes of digital data  (where one yottabyte contains more than an entire year's worth of internet traffic!):  I'd have to say that "transparent" has come to take on a whole new meaning, with transparent being turned onto you and me, private citizens of the U.S. A.  When the author of the original "Patriot Act" comes out saying that the U.S. government has overstepped it's mandate on a grand scale, in this particular instance, you know the world has truly gone mad.  Maybe I'd better not even mention a recent article I read about government funded studies into the science of mind-reading ... "1984", here we come?

I understand that we live in a world where terrorism has literally come to our doorstep and as such the methods our government uses to combat this virulent terrorism have changed.  I was okay with the original Patriot Act, after careful consideration of the facts pertaining to this law ... which came to light in 2004, in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft (program started in 2001 after 9/11) ... But this current revelation about the depth and scope of our government's spying on and storing our private personal information, in the form of phone records, conversations, emails and other on-line social media content and transactions, clearly shows our government's ability to dip into the lives of its private citizens without due process of law has really gotten out of control!   With this mass storing of our private information "for potential future use" there is no more protection from "unreasonable search and seizure" or any guarantee of "due process of law" because the previous requirements to get a court order before obtaining this type of data have now effectively been eliminated  as the government already has all our data!  And we citizens are just supposed to trust that government or individuals with the security clearance to access our data –perhaps with their own private agendas (e.g., political targeting, black-mail, etc.)-- won't use or abuse our personal data and completely trample on our individual rights to privacy?   

By accepting this type of behavior on the part of our government, without question, we, as Americans, will essentially have effectively given up our right to true privacy, in my humble opinion.  Once we surrender this power to the federal government we will we never truly be able to get it back!  This is an important point to make and consider, so I will repeat the latter:  Once we, as citizens, willingly surrender our right to privacy --and on such a grand scale-- to the federal government we will we never truly be able to get it back!  So now is the time to become informed, think this whole thing through and ACT!  I have to wonder which scares me more:  our government secretly overstepping its original mandate, as dictated by the Patriot Act, or U.S. citizens complacency in responding to this violation of power and privacy?  Is not our right to privacy one of the greatest, hard-won, and globally-speaking relatively unique freedoms we have as citizens of the United States of America?  A freedom that used to make the U.S.A. one of the greatest nations on earth …  And we are now somehow okay with just surrendering this freedom in name of an appearance of enhanced security????!!!!???  Yeah, I don’t think so!  Show me the 'money' (proof) and then maybe we’ll talk.  Keep in mind, this “enhanced security” did absolutely nothing to alert authorities to or to prevent the recent terror attack at the Boston Marathon this past Spring 2013.

Is it just me or are the opportunities for abuse in this blanket PRISM monitoring and subsequent data storage scenario unwieldy and wholly unacceptable?  I mean, if any analyst --even a government contractor, not directly a government employee under direct government oversight-- conceivably has the ability, and not necessarily the legal right or due process directive, to target any individual citizen are we then just supposed to trust that they (or god forbid others using them to gain access to private citizens’ information) will simply choose not do so?  That’s absolutely insane!

Given the facts to date, the important question now becomes:  what will we, as U.S. citizens and elected government officials, do about this egregious violation of our constitutional rights to privacy?  And will this action on our part be decisive and timely (unlike all previous responses to affronts on our civil liberties by this current administration) or will we just wind up letting things s-l-i-d-e, yet again, this time around as well?  Remember, once we let these hard-won constitutional rights go, getting them back once again will be next to impossible, so now is the time to become informed, think this whole thing through and ACT!  The way I see it, timing here is of the essence and letting this one "SLIDE" is simply NOT AN OPTION.  It is time for accountability in U.S. government to be put back onto the table ... We've been on the slippery slope for too long now and the landslide is coming.  The Patriot Act was one thing, PRISM and Dark Star are another matter entirely.  What’s more, given the fact that the latter violations to our privacy did absolutely nothing to stop the recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon speaks to the fact that surrendering more of hard-won civil liberties is not the way forward in our efforts to combat terrorists.  You have to draw the line somewhere and I say we draw the line at the Patriot Act, requiring court-issued warrants in order to store and access private citizen’s personal data.

And yes, the fact that this particular contractor to the U.S. government --not even a direct government employee -- had access to the intelligence information he says he did --and therein may lie the key-- does make you scratch your head and wonder why our national security secrets are so widely available and unprotected.  That being said, the lack of security w.r.t. to our national security secrets is another matter entirely:  a matter which sorely needs to be addressed, if true, but addressed in another conversation altogether.   And the fact that our government can't even safeguard information w.r.t. our vital national security secrets does not go a long way toward giving me any further confidence in the government’s ability to safeguard my personal information w.r.t. to phone calls, emails, and other digital transactions.

P.S.  This data-mining revelation kind of paints Microsoft's new "Skydrive: 7GB free cloud-drive storage for everyone", Flickr's photo sharing recent "A FREE terabyte of storage for everyone!", and Google's long running slogan of "With 1GB of free storage who ever needs to delete an email?" ... in a whole new light, doesn't it?  Help populate the database with useful data, you clueless citizens?  Our grandparents' were right:  there truly is no free-lunch, go figure .... And what about possible ramifications for limiting the field of potential candidates to run for political offices with everyone's skeletons now just a click of a few buttons away?  Some scary stuff if you stop for a moment and take a look at the BIG picture.


Karen :) said...

Very scary! I have always been cautious about what I put out there. If I really need to say something to someone, it is on a land line or face to face!

Michelle (Isabelle) said...

Yes, Karen, it is scary. Probably good advice to say things face-to-face whenever possible. Putting things in writing leaves so much open to interpretation, I have found. Less likelihood for spying eyes/ears face-to-face as way as well. The lack of accountability in our government has really gotten of control. Think it is time for "We the People" to wake up and to start taking some action!