The new PI in town

private_investigationJune 10, 2013 – Will the privacy rights of American citizens eventually disappear altogether?

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.

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10 thoughts on “The new PI in town

  1. I heard of this on Huffington. My feelings and thoughts were torn. It’s a double-edged sword really. Like you say – nobody knows the truth or the story behind the story and exposing it like that is just trying to ruin lives.

    People over expose themselves via social media. They put themselves out there, and drag their families with them wether they want it or not. I really try to control what goes out there. My full name is never to be found and my facebook account is under my roller derby name. But my sisters and nieces are linked and it would be easy to figure it out.

    Now that I think about it, my feelings are no longer torn on the bragging train ride. I don’t think she should have done that. How would she like it if somebody dragged her closet contents out in the open and begged for everybody to repost it? No. Not cool. Who is she to think she knows what’s best for this man’s family?

    And that is the problem with most social media – who are we to think we are so good everybody needs to know about it? I know I’m guilty of it simply by having a blog screaming “Look at me! Look at me!” The road we are taking is a scary path and I have no idea what the outcome will be, nor what the solution is.

    Loved this essay!

    • Thanks, Marie. You make some very good points. I know the woman thought she was doing the right thing. But it’s only one side of the story.

  2. The problem I find with this “cheating post” is that no one knows if the person pictured was actually bragging about cheating. The poster could have been a previous left behind girlfriend or a disgruntled co-worker, etc… I know that your cousin did NOT personally know the poster. It was a friend of a friend of a friend and you know how that goes.

    Even though we all know better, we tend to believe whatever we read on the internet and that is a troublesome reality.

    • Yes, Bea, I do know how that goes. Social Media makes us all connected, even though we really don’t know each other that well. And you’re right about believing what we read on the internet. Like I said above, it’s only one side of the story based on one person’s opinion. Thanks for commenting! Welcome home!!!

  3. This Facebook post has garnered a lot of attention! They talked about it on The View this morning and featured it on The Huffington Post. Local woman goes viral!

  4. Perhaps we can appreciate an opportunity to share good thoughts with the world. Imagine the man or woman looking at your communications and words, then they see where you have written the words “love is the answer for humanity”. Look at it as a form of spreading good, positive thoughts. How’s that for looking at the bright side! Those who would not fear that their thoughts and words are known by everyone can look on this as the nothing that it is. Secrecy is a thing of the past. People are coming to the point where sharing everything is accepted as healthy and positive. I see a day coming where there will be no more whistleblowers. Whistleblowers will simply be people recognized and honored for speaking truth. Very interesting changes are occurring. Much reason for optimism. Thanks.

    • You sound like a good man, Jerry. It would be nice if more people could see things like you do. Message boards attached to blogs and articles are often filled with such disrespect and hate. How lucky you are to see the bright side!

  5. You are lucky as well because you recognize the importance of respecting all life. Those message boards which contain disrespect and hate are in reality cries for love. When you share your love and respect with people it heals the soul in profound ways. Say you respond to hateful words with love, the person is to an extent changed/healed, then goes on to heal others who will go on to heal others… It is so beautiful. Thank you.

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