By Laurence F Adams III
Spying, collecting, tracking, and processing everyone’s data are par for the course
nowadays in America. Before June 2013, with Edward Snowden’s confirmation, it was
denied. Even with admitted government programs, like the ECHELON program, people
still weren’t aware of government and corporate spying. In March 2013, the Director of
the NSA, James Clapper, even blatantly lied about it. But I believe at this point in time,
we can all admit we are being spied on.
There is this unique relationship between the major publicly traded companies
(AT&T, Google, Verizon, etc.) and government, where companies collect, aggregate,
track, and sell our data, while allowing government to have access to these invasive
systems to do their own processing. Through peer pressure, self censorship and the lack
of privacy, we are seeing the destruction of our Constitutional Democratic-Republic.
Leading technology gurus and trail blazers like Dr. Richard Stallman, the father of
the Unix systems (essentially all operating systems), the father of the Internet Sir Tim
Berner Lee, the father of computer security John MacAfee, the father of the first word
processing application John Thomas Draper, Former NSA Director for Global
Communications Intelligence and top cryptologist for over 30 years William Binney,
former NSA Executive Thomas Drake and so many more are warning about the effects of
the lack of privacy and its results to our society.
It is essential to any thriving culture and economy for the participants to have
privacy. Any cutting-edge company coming up with the next advancement needs to
conceal from their competitors their supplies and assets during the procurement phase,
otherwise their competitors might be able to figure out what they are coming out with.
Privacy and creativity go hand in hand. Salon even did a piece with Glenn
Greenwald where they really capture this issue. He says that privacy is where “we can be
free of shame and guilt and embarrassment; it’s where creativity resides.” A person in a
society that is always being watched “makes choices not as a free individual but as
someone who is trying to conform to what is expected and demanded of them.”
Meanwhile, Google CEO Eric Schmidt says, “If you have something that you don’t want
anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
When every Tweet, every Facebook post, every comment, every purchase, every
text message, every joke taken out of context, every link click, and every Google search
is being monitored, there is a percentage of people who will self-censor on some level.
PEN America surveyed 520 American writers in 2013 and found 1 in 6 have avoided
reporting or investigating topics due to privacy concerns. Another 1 in 6 thought about it.
Why wouldn’t they? It is, after all, the Obama administration that has imprisoned more
journalists under the 1917 Espionage Act than all former administrations combined. It’s
not just reporters that need to be alarmed at the legal assault, especially since the IRS
was caught targeting conservative institutions in 2011. Who knows who they will target this
Other than the assault, there is a real fundamental issue with no privacy.
According to a study by Georgia State University, “chimpanzees conform [even] when it
appears to be an inefficient strategy.” This study is important, because it builds on top of
previous ones showing chimpanzees being conservative. It has been shown that
“Chimpanzees remain fixed on a single strategy, even if a novel, more efficient, strategy
is introduced.” But they will adopt a new, inefficient, way of doing something if their
friends are watching them. Conformity and the lack of privacy is an anathema to a society
that tries to promote the best ideas, the most efficient techniques, and one that will
eventually reach the stars. We protect privacy when we vote; we have the fourth
amendment that states we deserve privacy in our person, place, and effects (i.e. phones,
browsers, computers, and whatever else we purchase). As consumers and private
property owners we need to elevate privacy beyond just voting rights.
Business Insider reported in 2010 that Mark Zuckerberg called his users “dumb
fucks” for trusting him with all of their data. Dr. Richard Stallman, creator of Unix, said
in Economic Times, “Facebook mistreats its users. Facebook is not your friend; it is a
surveillance engine.” Sir Tim Berner Lee, Father of the Internet, said at a TED talk in
2014 that we need “a Magna Carta for the web,” and that our data we create belongs to
us, not the Facebooks of the world. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself – it was IBM
that gave Hitler the ability to execute his atrocities. When it was time to confiscate and
round up he relied on the data-collecting machines that IBM built and serviced for him
and now we have smart phones that do more.
The founding fathers of our technological society are warning about the way in
which it is moving. By no means am I trying to take people’s Facebook and Google+
accounts from them, but there ought to be a spirit for privacy and the idea in the forefront
of everyone’s mind. We went from believing our privacy was there, to finding out one
day it was gone, and now there is a spirit of not caring. We all live in an entrepreneurial
environment, and if there is a will for privacy, someone will create a competing product
that emphasizes privacy and force. Through competition, Google and the rest will follow
suit – they don’t like losing money.
Laurence Adams is a member of the Information Technology Senior Seminar
course and is planning on a career in Software Development. This article and more is
located at http://www.larry-adams.info.