So everyone’s all hot-under-the-collar about the latest US government “intelligence” gathering project to reach the light of day – evidently the NSA got their hands on a whole nutload of phone call records from North America’s “big-3″ of the telecom world. Supposedly, this was to try to extract suspicions of terrorist activities from calling patterns.
Let’s put this issue in perspective, and not to diminish or distract from just how serious a violation of privacy it is. There are plenty of overpaid politicians on both sides of the aisle doing that already. The perspective I’m talking about is more along the lines of: open your friggin eyes, people! Gene Hackman’s character in Enemy of the State said it best: “The more technology you use, the easier it is for them to keep tabs on you.”
But just who is keeping those tabs? It’s natural to get all hot ‘n bothered over the NSA learning about your telephone habits. But how much other personal information do we give away without getting the least bit upset? Here are some hints:
- Thanks to spyware and adware that most people unwittingly welcome onto their computers, companies (not all of which have noble intentions) monitor your product purchasing habits, your credit card transactions and your porn preferences. You gladly give up this information in exchange for the ability to pirate music, have a pouncing animated kitten waste processor cycles at the bottom of your screen, or have the weather report sitting in your system tray.
- You’re outraged that the government knows how frequently you call your grandma in Tulsa, yet every April you’re forced to fork over every intimate detail about your financial life, your salary, your employment, your charity affiliations and your medical expenses – at least, if you don’t want to go to jail for tax evasion!
- People’s forehead veins are popping because the government decided to listen in on some international calls. Yet these people volley sensitive information around the glove – often deeply personal communications – through an unencrypted, clear-text, easy-to-intercept e-mail system every day. Strong encryption software is freely available to plug into every respectable e-mail program on every operating system, yet no one uses it. Unfortunately, on the flip-side, even if this software is used, it only secures the content of the communication – but the source and destination of encrpyted e-mails is still easily discernable.
Again, I’m not trying to diminish or draw attention away from the seriousness of our phone records being handed over to the government without our permission or knowledge. What I’m pointing out is that government surveillance is only one of many, many magnifying glasses that are focused on us. And, though I’m sure my words will stir few if any fires, just how open we leave ourselves through our use and endorsement of the very technologies that betray us.