Thursday, May 10, 2012

More on Internet Privacy

Dear Madame L,

I read your discussion of the issue of Internet privacy, and I hope you'll add something to the discussion. 

It's not just scammers who want to know all about you. The government is also accessing every bit of information it can about everyone who has ever gone online, used Facebook, or sent an e-mail message.

I know some people say if you're innocent you shouldn't be worried, because the government only wants this information to go after criminals. But I don't think you have to be a criminal or a paranoid person to be concerned.

What do you think?


Really Concerned

Dear Concerned,

Madame L thanks you for bringing up this issue. Thanks to your concern, Madame L has done some online research (with the government tracking her, or not!) and has found a very interesting article about the way our own government is collecting and using information about us, and the way that Congress and journalists are not defending our privacy. 

While Madame L doesn't agree with Glenn Greenwald about everything (or even very much), she thinks he's right on the button on this issue. He quotes from other commentators here, too, which helped Madame L accept his argument on this point. Here's what Fareed Zakaria wrote about the issue of privacy in our over-sharing electronic age:

"While we will leave the battlefields of the greater Middle East, we are firmly committed to the war on terror at home. What do I mean by that? Well, look at the expansion of federal bureaucracies to tackle this war.

"Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organizations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for the intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet – the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols or three Pentagons. The largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs is now the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people.

"The rise of this national security state has entailed a vast expansion in the government’s powers that now touch every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism. Some 30,000 people, for example, are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications within the United States. . . ."

And here Glenn Greenwald cites what Edward Wasserman wrote about the media's "'fearful silence' in the face of the Obama administration’s systematic, unprecedented attack on whistleblowing:"

"When President Obama addressed the American Society of News Editors convention last month, the real news was what didn’t happen. The watchdogs didn’t bark. No discouraging word from the gathering of 1,000 of the country’s top news people, facing a president whose administration has led a vigorous attack on journalism’s most indispensable asset — its sources.

"Obama took office pledging tolerance and even support for whistleblowers, but instead is prosecuting them with a zeal that’s historically unprecedented . . .

"What’s behind the administration’s fervor isn’t clear, but the news media have largely rolled over and yawned. A big reason is that prosecutors aren’t hassling reporters as they once did. Thanks to the post-9/11 explosion in government intercepts, electronic surveillance, and data capture of all imaginable kinds — the NSA is estimated to have intercepted 15-20 trillion communications in the past decade — the secrecy police have vast new ways to identify leakers.

"So they no longer have to force journalists to expose confidential sources. As a national security representative told Lucy Dalglish, director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, “We’re not going to subpoena reporters in the future. We don’t need to. We know who you’re talking to” . . .

"[T]hat silence constitutes an abdication of the media’s role as a voice in shaping public policy. After all, the ultimate purpose of reporter shield laws and the defiant tradition of protecting confidential sources isn’t to make writing stories easier for reporters, it’s to ensure that publicly significant information comes to light.

"If the news media publish sensitive information, fully believing it ought to be made public, how can they stand by without protest when the government punishes the people who furnished it?

Madame L is reminded of living in a certain foreign country where one knew that every phone call was being recorded, every conversation at work reported, and every drive in the car monitored.

Madame L hopes you and all her Dear Readers will take care about what they say and write. You've heard that writing an email message is like sending a postcard, but Madame L thinks it's even more revealing than that, because only a few people ever see your postcards, but anyone now, including any scummy low-level IT professional in any government or telecommunications office, can read your emails, your Facebook timeline, your blog posts, everything.

Madame L hopes to hear from more of her Dear Readers about this issue.


Madame L

No comments: