Random Thoughts on Privacy

I looked over the headlines on the newspapers in the gas station this morning while I poured my coffee. There is a major buzz about federal agencies spoofing cell phone signals and harvesting people’s electronic data from cessna airplaines.

Now, I’m not going to climb on a soapbox, slap on a tinfoil hat, and start preaching to you about how the government is chipping away at our rights, and soon there’ll be nothing left. No, I’m not smart enough to make legitimate arguments in that direction, nor am I crazy enough to fabricate evidence.

Instead, I want to list a few things that scrolled through my head as I drove to work, drinking the bitter coffee from the gas station urn.

  1. There is no way that this is something new. Human engineering was able to create a space module that was capable of landing on a comet this week- as it flew along through space at 84,000 miles an hour. If you think that data mining is something new, I have a bridge to sell you. This doesn’t make it RIGHT, I just believe that we’ve been living with it for so long already, that only our knowledge of it has changed. If this is the case, the negative ramifications that everyone is worried about should have happened already.
  2. It is my belief that there are agencies out there that are using this data to do exactly what they say they’re doing- combating criminal and terrorist activity. Why don’t we hear about it working? Because blowing the lid off of a program like this for the benefit of a newspaper headline seems a tad foolish, and while the overall intelligence if our governing body can often be called into question, I doubt anyone would go that far.
  3. With the amount of data being passed through cell phones, computers, wireless access points, and so on…I can’t believe that there is anyone out there actively monitoring it all. Think about what you do on your phone in the space of one day. Now multiply that by everyone in your household. Neighborhood. County. State, Nation. If there were active monitoring of all of this stuff, a lot more speed dating questions would be answered with “I can’t tell you what I do for a living.” Data collection is not the same as data monitoring. I’m still not SUPPORTING domestic spying, but there are some holes in the arguments against it.
  4. We as a nation are unwilling to submit a law-abiding majority of the citizenry to oppressive and invasive practices to protect them from a criminal minority where our cell phones are concerned, but completely supporting of it when a civilian’s right to firearm’s ownership is the subject. If you think about that for a second, it isn’t as much of a reach as it sounds. Picking and choosing which constitutional rights we stand behind seems a bit silly. I believe it is ‘all or nothing’ when it comes to defending and protecting the constitution.
  5. For so much noise about security and privacy, there is often little to no attempt to maintain it at the user end. I cannot tell you how many wireless access points are unsecured, how many default passwords aren’t changed, how much personal information is completely unsecured on social media sites. To me, setting yourself up for having your data collected by someone- ANYONE, then crying about it is paramount to standing naked in the street then getting mad when people look at you.
  6. In spite of what I’ve said above, I do not support the idea of blanket data-collection from domestic sources. The idea that everything and anything that needs to be collected in the event that something happens and we can go back and figure out what went wrong seems far too reactionary. “Hey, we went through the records and caught the guy who blew up that bus and killed a bunch of people. Hooray justice!” ….I don’t have an answer nor an alternative, I really do not. I just know that since there cannot be a way to actively monitor all the data that streams through our networks every second of every day, these measures seem to be on par with the TSA upping their security game AFTER an incident on an airline.

And, now the coffee is gone, I am settling into work, and the call tickets are beginning to find their way into my email. I’ll close for now recalling the Ben Franklin quote: “Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.” – This is a wonderful saying because not only does it outline the problem, but it fails to deliver a solution. Probably because there isn’t a nice, simple one. If there was, I like to think we’d have been smart enough to have taken hold of it by now.

…I’ll be back to the regular inane that you expect from me this afternoon. Enough of this serious stuff.

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