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The NSA, Privacy, and College Students

By now, we’re all familiar with the NSA PRISM leaks, Edward Snowden, and the rest of the scenario: the government has been accessing phone records for the past several years. If you’re not aware, you live under a rock, and I have no idea why (or how) you’re reading this, but let me help you out.

The whole point of this article isn’t to take sides, as I (and most of the rest of us) don’t know the whole story and probably can’t, for a myriad of reasons. Many people believe Snowden is a hero, many believe he is a traitor, and many (like myself) have no idea what to think. On the one hand, he released information that he was sworn to keep secret and protected. On another he believes that his Constitutional oath overrides that, and on another he could have endangered lots of people, and critical operations that are being done to keep America safe.

What has irked me in this entire scenario is how people in my generation, many of them college students, have cried out about how this violates our privacy.  This is coming from the generation who checks into every place we go on Foursquare, posts pictures of ourselves by the millions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms, SnapChats all kinds of photos to our significant others and our friends that aren’t as “gone” as we think, and will sign up for every sweepstakes for a free iPad or anything else at the drop of a hat while using our phones that can easily be accessed over unsecured networks by the right people.

Are we really that concerned about our privacy?

Granted, there is the polarity there of us granting these social media sites access and limiting who can see what and where we are, but the hypocrisy of this whole situation is staring us in the face. Our generation is all about sharing information, and we’re crying out in protest when the government uses a little of it to protect the country?

I urge everyone who reads this to do a Google search of their own name and other public screen names they use to see what is really out there about them, and if it’s all what they want the government seeing. If you can find it on Google, they can find it and a lot more without much work.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really have anything to hide from the government. If some NSA agent is more worried about the few Facebook posts I made this morning, or who I called, then our national security is really in danger. Sure, their access to it is scary, but is anyone actually surprised they are doing this?

I’m not saying any of this is right or wrong, good or bad. I’m just saying that sometimes we need to look at ourselves and what we want seen before we actually complain about anyone else actually seeing it. Let’s clean up our acts and expect the government to live by our example.


Edward Peichel | St. John’s University | @EdwardPeichel

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6 Responses

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  1. ADD
    Jun 18, 2013 - 03:54 PM

    The basic deal is that we volunteer that information, it is not taken from us. We have the option to not use facebook. We have the option to not disclose our location on foursquare. It is information that we choose to share. The government is taking information and private communications without our consent. It doesn’t matter if it’s significant or not, it is still the government prying into our private lives. This is a tool of tyranny. It doesn’t matter how much “safer” it makes us from external and internal threats, it goes against the ideals our nation was founded on. Imagine if a real despot managed to take control (and no, Obama doesn’t count, at least not yet). If we got a real taste of fascism and social upheaval. The citizenry would be powerless. You’d get people being taken away in the night for being opposition sympathizers. Dissidents would be jailed or executed. People couldn’t organize to take back their country, at least not as easily. Yeah, that’s a really extreme, worst case scenario. I’m aware that that isn’t likely, but it’s not something to be discounted. A government is not to be trusted with that sort of power. It doesn’t matter how good their intentions may or may not be. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Terrorists can harm us, but they can’t collapse our nation. That’s something that governments do to themselves or others.

    • ADD
      Jun 18, 2013 - 04:05 PM

      And yeah, you could retort, “Oh, so the government isn’t to be trusted with our information, but corporations are?” to which I say, not really, but they can’t do the same sort of damage. The worst a corporation can do on their own is analyze your data to try and sell you something. It’s annoying, but not really a threat.

  2. Christopher Rushlau
    Jun 14, 2013 - 11:24 AM

    Well, I got a hint to what you’re going to write about from the other comment, but I’ll go ahead with my quip before reading. The Government has announced that the best security from terrorism lies in reducing the chances of terrorists gaining terror converts among the US population, so residents of all states containing more than two vowels will be terminated. In the long run, this will work out to our advantage.
    Well, having had that clue, my quip isn’t so funny.
    I think you want to talk about suicide and whether it reduces anxiety. I’ll read on.
    “If some NSA agent is more worried about the few Facebook posts I made this morning, or who I called, then our national security is really in danger.” The grammatical and semantical oddities in this sentence suggest it was blurted, which tends to mean it’s honest.
    The problem with suicide is that the doer is a spirit. You may never believe this of yourself in your entire life up to that point, but as the last bit of life is wrung out of you by your weight hanging on that rope around your neck, I’ll bet you’ll believe it then, because you’ll be saying to yourself, God, your body, or whomever will listen, “What have I done!?” The problem then is that, embarked in that moment on that realization of the spiritual dimension, you’re going to wonder if that dimension will welcome you as you’re presenting yourself. Could there be two spiritual dimensions: one for the good boys and one for the bad boys? What would it take to be assigned to one of the other?
    Two things about the Global War On Terror, which is the Emergency Decree under which we’ve been living since we finally, once and for all, cancelled the US Constitution on September 12, 2001 (“the world has changed forever”): One is that, with this police state, everybody has a free shot at what it’s like to live in a warzone where some jerk could snuff your life out or make you miserable because he has the power and you don’t. It’s kind of like AIDS: instant morality if you want it. The other is that, as the Vietnam vet told me, war makes people “pop tall”: the strong get ennobled and the weak break.
    It’s all about virtue: manliness in ancient Rome, but, aside from that sexism, it means Menschheit, the quality of being human, which is something every human can jettison if it’s inconvenient. What it comes down to is a spiritual question. I think it’d be very hard for the Great Spirit not to enforce two rules on all of us: do not treat the Great Spirit like it’s stupid, and do not treat other people like they’re stupid.
    When the lynch mob comes up your street and grabs your brother instead of you, who knows why (you’re not saying anything is good or bad), don’t say to them, “Oh, he really deserved it, I’ll bet, huh.”

  3. Barbara
    Jun 14, 2013 - 09:47 AM

    Edward, looks like you have been under the rock. The point is that even if you don’t post on social media, your every conversation, and location can be tracked. A woman who is a prostitute by choice is still considered raped if it is against her will.
    The key word here is CHOICE. Have you heard of the data center in Utah?
    You are blaming the victim.



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