Do you know that I can find out what you’re driving, what you pay every month, and when your lease expires? Do you own your car? I knew that already and I know what your trade-in totaled and what bank you got a loan from and at what interest rate.
I know your house payment and if you like red shoes. I can have a banner appear when you go online that promotes your favorite brand of coffee and I know the name of your first pet. And I’m just in marketing.
Imagine what the government can know.
The 4th Amendment is under fire and so is the 5th and the 1st and they have been for a long time. But, here’s the really troubling part: We’ve been all too happy to let them know whatever they want to know. In fact, we expect government to know as much as possible about everyone– just so long as it isn’t us.
The NSA eavesdrops on our conversations when their software reveals that we have been using suspicious language or communicating with nefarious people, and our texts, emails, Tweets and phones can be targeted for investigation.
So what are we going to do about it? Most likely….very little.
Perhaps, Col. Jessep sums up our self-imposed ignorance best in “A Few Good Men”: You have the luxury of not knowing what I know… And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall!
Because, we are afraid, and because we want to be protected from terrorism and from every unknown threat. Because 9/11 scared the living crap out of us and we‘ve allowed, if not downright begged, the government to analyze all the information that is available regarding terror networks and suspect operatives, whether they are known Al Qaeda or as pedestrian as the guys in the apartment next door, because, who knows….?
And when government law enforcement misses; when a bomb goes off because not enough secretive information was processed – we tear them down for not protecting us.
If every other nation, every terrorist cell, every business, marketer, and hacker has access to Big Data, with information about our individual habits and preferences that creates a 3 dimensional, real time, map of society and every imaginable microcosm therein, how can we limit our own government from processing the same information in the interest of our protection? That is, after all, a primary function of governance.
Can we really expect our government to stand down when Proctor and Gamble has all of the same information?
I posted some thoughts a little while back that I called “The Price of Freedom” where I posited that freedom isn’t free and it isn’t necessarily safe. We can choose freedom or we can choose security, but we cannot necessarily have both. The laws which protect our freedoms can also leave us vulnerable to what the government doesn’t know.
The 4th Amendment provides us with freedom from illegal searches and seizures by law enforcement officers: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” That can logically be extended to technology that didn’t exist at the time; cell phones and computers.
The Constitutional Framer’s intent was to secure individual rights and freedoms from government overreach, even in the pursuit of security.
I bristle at anything that offends the 4th amendment or suspends habeas corpus, because I believe that the Cause of Protection and Security will lead to Abuse of Power and ultimately to Tyranny, whether government, corporate, or both. I believe that we must take the risks that come with an adherence to the Bill of Rights and from “not knowing everything” so that we can protect the only thing that truly keeps us free: the Freedom of Thought.
50 years before the Revolution began Benjamin Franklin proffered:
Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.
But, I am a minority. Many people, on the left and on the right side of the aisle, are appalled by the invasion of privacy and that infringement upon our personal liberty, whether it was by the administrations of President Trump, Obama or Bush…or Clinton or Reagan….or Nixon or Johnson…or Lincoln; but, nearly everyone still chooses to be safe rather than sorry. It’s a cliche that resonates to our core.
Living without freedom, or freedom without living? Tough call.