Personal Data Stores and NSA Developments

Written by Bailey Ochs. Media by Fallyn Paruleski.

You probably know that the government knows quite a lot about you, perhaps more than you realize. You’ve probably heard all about “Big Brother” and read the articles about getting rid of technology and cell phones to try to become more invisible to unwanted watching eyes. But there are a couple of ways that you might not know about in which you are being monitored. Perhaps the spotlight is not on you directly. But if you were to do something that would catch their attention, it wouldn’t take much for them to find out more than you might like about you.

Imagine everything you’ve ever sent to anyone: your phone calls, texts, emails. Think about the places that you have been with your cell phone. Those were meant to be personal and private. That’s how you probably want them to stay. But recent events have made Americans question how confidential this kind of communication really is. Much of this suspicion is due to the work of the National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA’s mission is, “Defending our nation. Securing the future.” But the NSA is beginning to see a lot of negative reactions to their continuing activities. Many people see these activities as violations of the fourth amendment rather than ways to enhance security, and to others, it makes them feel a lot less secure.

Metadata tracking, drone surveillance, and other similar strategies are done in the name of security. They are supposed to protect the American people from criminals and terrorists. But most of us are not criminals and terrorists. I think there is a fine line of progressive technology being used to prevent crime and encroaching on the rights of the rest of society.

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As I was reading stories about FBI domestic drones, the NSA, and the new PRISM program, I realized that a lot can happen around and to us that we don’t know about and have no say in. As Obama mentioned, some of these activities have to be kept quiet because you can’t sneak up on a terrorist if you announce your every move while on the hunt to the nation. However, we should know if our own privacy is being trampled on in an attempt to find out if someone might know a terrorist. There must be other ways of going about it.

How much of our own rights are we willing to give up for the promise of better protection? Obama, when confronted with a question about domestic spying, said “You can’t have 100% security and then also have 100% privacy.” This is true. Neither of those things will ever exist, even separate from the other. We want to be protected and we want to be free. There has to be a balance. But protection also means protection from those who will have more power over us in the exchange. Benjamin Franklin said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” To me, liberty is worth more. Perhaps freedom, like C.S. Lewis’ Aslan, may not be completely safe. But it is good.

I do not know enough about the legal system or history to know if what is happening is technically wrong. But it is uncomfortable and it leads me to wonder: what is next? I don’t want anyone spying on me. I am assuming that most of America would feel the same.  We need to pay attention and stay alert to what is happening so that if it goes too far (I think in some ways it already has), something can be done.


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