More and more that seems to be our reality, with the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collecting data from tens of thousands of calls from the communication giants such as Verizon and AT&T.
This situation is far from new; it began after 9/11 and was first reported in 2006, yet many Americans don’t seem to care that they are under surveillance. We’re already used to street cameras recording activity in high crime areas, and getting thoroughly examined in airport security lines all in the name of safety. I suppose worrying about how we will retire or finding a job that pays the bills is enough to stress over right now.
Other countries have maintained higher security standards than the U.S. for years, but Americans always felt safe in our cocoon. Until 9/11, that is. We were targeted, we got hit, and we had to make changes so it wouldn’t happen again. All because crime is running rampant in our own streets, and there are groups here and around the world out to kill as many people as possible in the name of religion.
The privacy issue makes me feel torn. On one hand, the government believes it is best for our national security. We want to feel safe and depend on them to keep us out of danger. On the other hand, it makes me worry. How far will they go? This kind of power in the wrong hands is frightening.
Yet the government isn’t even the scariest threat to our freedom. In many ways, we are our own worst enemies, and how we use technology adds to the problem. It is the age of cell phone photos and videos that expose the activities of average citizens. We have Google glass, 3D printers, Facebook and other social media, and the latest gadget popping up in the technology field, whatever it is. Surely, it will be our eventual downfall. With technology advancing so quickly, common people can become as dangerous as criminals, or their own private investigators.
It’s almost as if we don’t value our privacy, so why does this matter. We overhear and sometimes participate in private conversations on cell phones while sitting next to strangers on trains and buses, while standing in busy checkout lines, and walking down the street. In addition, we share intimate secrets of our lives on Facebook and other social media sites without a second thought. It’s not that much different from the type of information the NSA gathers.
Facebook is often targeted for possible violations of privacy issues, yet millions (including me) still use it. Facebook may think they’re being clever about privacy, but they know what you do when you leave the site; how else would they determine I was shopping for handbags on Macys.com last night? I realize it’s the same with search engines like Google, but it seems more prominent on Facebook. When I logged on this morning, for example, there were plenty of ads for Macy’s handbags nicely framing my news feed. They also resort to trickery to get you to “like” certain ads. For example, they may disguise a photo of a beautiful sunset as something you should “like”, but it is actually a hidden ad for Wal-Mart or another retailer. It’s not surprising that their demise is predicted for a few years down the road.
What is surprising is that the other night my news feed contained a picture of a man on a train, most likely taken by a cell phone user and without his knowledge. The caption read: “If this is your husband, I have just endured a two-hour train ride from Philadelphia listening to this loser and his friends bragging about their affairs and how their wives are too stupid to catch on. Please repost.” Now, that’s one interesting way to expose a cheater. Is the woman who posted this a hero for calling out a cheater, or someone who should have respected the privacy of this man and the people on the train, even if he didn’t?
Part of me wants to applaud the woman who posted it; she is a friend of my cousin, and that is how I saw the post, but I don’t know her. And I thought about sharing it. But what if it’s not true? What if he made it up just to impress his friends? That makes him an idiot, but not necessarily a cheater. And what if this post embarrasses his wife? Perhaps she already knows — most spouses do unless they don’t care — and doesn’t want to make this public knowledge.
Last I checked that post had over 238,000 shares. It’s simply one more example that our right to privacy – quite possibly due to our own foolish actions – is disappearing.