“Privacy is mostly an illusion. A useful illusion, no question about it, one that allows us to live without being paralyzed by self-consciousness. The illusion of privacy gives us room to be fully human, sharing intimacies and risking mistakes. But all the while, the line between private and public space is as porous as tissue paper.” (Read more: http://nation.time.com/2013/08/01/the-surveillance-society/#ixzz2fkWo3B4O)
All year, the debate surrounding the National Security Agency’s surveillance program has been brewing. Ever since, Edward Snowden leaked classified government documents to the United Kingdom’s “Guardian”, some of the public has reacted with extreme annoyance and politicians have been busy spinning this program in an attempt to convince us of its vitalness. Snowden has been demonized by many but would the public have the knowledge of this program and be able to debate the merits of the surveillance society if it wasn’t for Snowden?
We are told that this program merely collects meta-data of our internet searches, emails and phone records. Snowden’s further leaks at the end of July or the beginning of August suggests the NSA taps all the information that one browses on the web. While we are told the government does not “spy” on us, if this is true, they very easily could with stunning access to our private data.
The question that I have: how many Americans actually care? In other words, is privacy dead because our government has rendered the idea irrelevant in the “war against terrorism” or is privacy dead because a great many American citizens are apathetic to the concept?
Obviously, we live in the age of writing personal blogs on the web so that virtually anyone can read our sometimes intimate thoughts or opinions. We have Facebook accounts that contain very open glimpses into all arenas of our lives and Twitter allows us to spout all views, opinions or articles to the tune of 140 characters. Since many people put themselves “out there” online, do they care that a big brother might be reading right along with their social media friends?
True, we have come to this point in our society because of rapid technological advancement. People choose freely to place whatever they want on social media sites but they do often search the web with the expectation of privacy. People send text messages or make phone calls with the expectation that the communication is between them and another person or whatever parties they may be speaking too. In reality, our phone carriers or internet providers are right there, monitoring and scheming about what advertisements to send our way.
What right does the government have to intercept these messages or as they put it, to collect meta-data? There allegedly is a super secret court (FISA) that “reviews” when an official may need to look at someone’s personal data. Of course, we don’t know much about this court except for rumors that this pretty much is a rubber stamp process. (http://www.npr.org/2013/06/13/191226106/fisa-court-appears-to-be-rubberstamp-for-government-requests)
Disturbingly, an article has just come out again from “The Guardian” that states that declassified rulings about the FISA court reveal an incredibly permissive attitude at odds toward the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and the decided interpretation of the very Supreme Court justices who currently sit on the bench. (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/22/secret-fisa-court-constitutional-rights)
No rational person would be against spying on people in the “war on terror” if there is a probable cause or reasonable suspicion to do so. As Snowden has helped us to see with this program, all Americans are apparently being looked at by government officials as suspicious and treated as such. The point may be scary enough that we are just learning about all the inner workings of this particular program and we probably don’t even know the extent of it all yet (if we ever will know). A lot of what is found out regarding this program (and potentially curbing the surveillance) is dependent upon the people valuing their privacy. Which path will we choose?
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” – 4th Amendment