One of the stories that has been in the news recently is the NSA scandal about collecting mass amounts of information and data on individuals (particularly phone records), regardless of any probable cause or suspicions. Depending on which team you play for (Blue or Red), this news is more or less concerning and is seen as more of a scandal or downplayed to not that big of a deal.
Some liberals who are downplaying this have probably forgotten their outrage at the Patriot Act when Bush (Boo!) was in office not that long ago. Meanwhile, some of the conservatives who believe that this is a scandal of the worst sort (Evil Obama!) probably don’t remember their unwavering support of Bush and the Patriot Act and the “whatever it takes to find and hunt down the terrorists” mantra.
Of course, there are some from each side who have remained more consistent in their support (or disdain) for this intrusion of privacy and the Patriot Act, but take note of the huge shifts in opinion by political party, generally speaking.
It also deserves to be pointed out that neither Bush nor Obama represent the first time that government or other agencies have had access to all sorts of our information.
I’m not going to necessarily discuss the possible merits or ethics involved with such a decision that may infringe on privacy rights. Instead, I’ll point you to an interesting Pew Poll that came out recently. Essentially the results show that people are fine with the NSA tracking phone records.
Interestingly, in this poll younger individuals *say* that they prioritize their privacy. Yet according to this study, 55% of young individuals (18-29 years old) say that this current NSA program is acceptable.
That’s an interesting statistic, though I don’t find it all that surprising, and I’ll give one main reason why: Technology. Most younger people have grown up in an age of personalized hyper-access to technology. In turn, they themselves have put out an unprecedented amount personal information – some without thinking about it, and many without caring about it, even if they do realize they are doing it.
People write emails, they join Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter to name a few. They blog, they “check in” on FourSquare, they post and comment online on news stories. They pay bills and make purchases online. They put out a lot of information into cyberspace whether written, photographic, or video, and that information stays there. In order to be a join the social media movement and be a part of the party, we have to click that little privacy/waiver statement (“I Agree”) that no one has ever read. We know that it means we give up some privacy, but we click on it. And we don’t think twice about it. Because we love social media.
Isn’t it interesting that if you have ever quit Facebook and then later decided to re-join, it will repopulate all of your previous information, friends, and photos. Because that information is still out there. We have created a culture of individuals who are used to putting out way too much information out there that is easily accessed by nearly anyone (including the government).
Another point worth mentioning is now that most people have cell phones, those cell phones are largely connected to individuals, not places or spaces. Anonymous pay phones, or a landline where any number of people could have called hardly exist anymore. Your cell phone is connected to you. People have lots of personal information on their phones. People text. Technology has made us much more traceable. It also makes it easier for others to record or take pictures of us – everyone is potentially policing each other.
Although this isn’t directly connected to technology, I’ll tell a short personal story. I was recently hired on for a summer position as a lifeguard for a large resort. After I passed the skills test, I was shuttled through an assembly line of HR hiring forms and policies. There is a ton of legal speak on these forms, and I read very little of it. For the most part, I simply skimmed through and found where to sign and date them. I’m absolutely certain that I signed away certain rights and privileges. Nearly each one of these forms (and several on computer) required my SSN. In addition, I gave a full set of fingerprints and took an oral swab drug test. I plodded on through this assembly line giving out information and waiving rights without thinking twice (until that spurred the inspiration for this post). It was expected. And I calmly went along with, acquiescent about all of the information I was giving out.
So again, this isn’t a “right or wrong” piece about privacy rights versus phone monitoring. It’s just an observation about attitudes and opinions that we have towards these government actions. I think that technological advancement has helped to create a culture where we don’t think twice about giving out way too much information or having our information accessed.
**I do think it *will be interesting* to see how this plays out as my generation begins to take on leadership positions. Think about how easy it will be for individuals to “dig up dirt” on people from all of this information. We have already seen how much trouble technology and incriminating pictures, emails, etc., have gotten individuals in…and those individuals weren’t using technology at such young ages or loose with their information.