I feel like it’s been widely assumed and joked about that the government is watching over your shoulder whenever you post anything to the Internet. Maybe it’s a result of my post-9/11 upbringing, but I’m always cautious to avoid using words like, “bomb” in conjunction with words like, “government” or “president” in emails just in case my account gets flagged by a concerned algorithm.
(Great, now my blog has probably just gotten flagged. Terrific)
You may have noticed that I no longer blog about my children and have made private most of the posts I wrote about my son’s infancy. I did this to protect his privacy, realizing that there may come a day in the future when he won’t want total strangers knowing so much about him.
Now that I’ve read the shocking expose in The Washington Post about how the government has been mining data from the servers of nine huge Internet companies, I’m tempted to recuse myself from the Internet as well.
Even if you don’t care about politics, you should read this and it should probably concern you. Why? Well, for one, the National Security Agency is supposed to exclusively monitor foreign intelligence. It’s the law. When the NSA was founded, that was the stricture put in place to prevent the government from turning those satellites around to monitor domestic chatter. This is important because once a government feels free to spy on its citizens, that’s a short, unhappy sleigh ride to other, worse things.
I don’t think any of us want to live in a country where dissension is illegal and we’re too afraid to disagree with what our government is doing for fear of reprisal.
Another reason this should probably concern you is that the government is implying that you are a criminal. Or about to be one. We’ve gone from a nation of “Innocent until proven guilty” to “Assumed guilty and never proven innocent.” By mining data indiscriminately from all U.S. Internet users (or, for now, the people who use any of the nine companies the government has teamed up with), the government is assuming that every single person is doing something the government needs to know about.
What else could the government possibly need to know about other than criminal dealings?
The last thing that concerns me that should probably concern you is, I’m pretty sure PRISM (the government program that’s spying on you) was never in any of the user agreements I signed when I opened my Facebook and Google accounts. That said, I have no choice but to wonder what else they’ve volunteered me for that I would object to if I knew.
This has all given me significant cause to consider deleting my Facebook and Google accounts. This is no small step for an author who relies on these Internet tools to spread the word about her books.
Still, I would rather sell fewer books than implicitly consent to the government acting illegally in surveilling me against my will. I mean, shoot. Between Google Earth, the government, and cell phone cameras, there’s really no way to have any privacy any more unless you build a house away from civilization and then never leave it.
Not even North Korea could keep Google out, and that’s saying something.