National Security and Your Privacy

“THE POOREST MAN MAY IN HIS COTTAGE BID DEFIANCE TO ALL THE FORCE OF THE CROWN.”—WILLIAM PITT, BRITISH POLITICIAN, 1759-1806.IMPLIED in Pitt’s words is the idea that every person should have the right to some privacy, to build a battlement around some part of his life that shields it from uninvited scrutiny.

I once worked at a financial institution.  When I arrived at work each day, a camera tracked my movements. As I entered the building, multiple cameras zooms in on my face. During the day numerous other cameras keep myself and others under constant surveillance.  I was weighed and retina scanned before being allowed into the datacenter.  This level of scrutiny is understandable because I worked for a company that handles millions of dollars in cash each day.I knew that I would be closely watched at work; it was clearly explained to me when I took the job. For millions of other people, however, the amount of surveillance they are subjected to each day may not be as clearly defined.

Since 9/11 billions of dollars have been invested by governments and other agencies on surveillance equipment.  We are now living in an era of unprecedented surveillance and snooping.  According to the NY Times – Officials at the National Security Agency, intent on maintaining its dominance in intelligence collection, pledged last year to push to expand its surveillance powers, according to a top-secret strategy document.  Should this surprise you?  The world-shaking terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, changed many people’s perception about the government’s right to invade some aspects of personal privacy. “September 11 changed things,” a former U.S. federal trade commissioner told BusinessWeek.He noted: “Terrorists swim in a society in which their privacy is protected. If some invasions of privacy are necessary to bring them out into the open, most people are going to say ‘O.K., go ahead.’” The magazine reports: “Polls taken since September 11 show that 86% of Americans are in favor of wider use of facial-recognition systems; 81% want closer monitoring of banking and credit-card transactions; and 68% support a national ID card.”

Twitter, Google, Apple and other Tech giants have indicated that they will resist government snooping.  End users have employed sophisticated encryption schemes to protect their data from prying eyes.  These are all noble efforts.  But at the end of the day, every company and yes – you the user will hand the keys over to big brother. As government authority increases it may soon become against the law to resist and if an institution is inclined to do so they may be the object of a hostile takeover.   This position may not be as extreme as you might think, things are clearly trending already in this direction and it has picked up even greater momentum since 9/11.

Feel free to encrypt, hide and protest but its all in vain.  Save yourself the frustration of becoming overly concerned because when its all said and done your data is safe – only in your mind.

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