Can We Stop Getting Excited about NSA Data Surveillance Already?

Breathless headlines! Shocking revelations! News that will make your head spin! It seems like every time we see new reporting on any aspect of NSA data surveillance brought about by the Edward Snowden leaks earlier this year, news outlets feel like we ought to be shocked and awed. But honestly, haven’t most of us already gotten past the point where we’re surprised by any of this?

man_bites_dog_-_Google_SearchToday’s big headlines in the Washington Post and elsewhere tell us that the NSA was grabbing 5 billion records a day from cellphones worldwide. The big shocking quote is that this was being done so that it enabled “the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.” 

The bold face is mine. Previously unimaginable. Really? Anyone who has been following the Snowden/NSA story since it broke last summer and/or what Internet companies like Google, Facebook, etc… have been doing for quite some time should not be listed in the unimaginable column. What’s unimaginable is that at this stage in the game a reputable newspaper would even think this. Set the politics of Snowden’s revelations aside. In essence all he did was shine a brighter spotlight on what many others had suspected and reported but had not yet proven. Once it was out in the open, the proverbial cat was out of the bag and all that was really left to report was how much fur was left on the furnishings. But then a slow and methodical release of the information is a better way to sell papers and grab web hits, than reporting what you know. The trickling out of info on this story by journalistic enterprises is as questionable as the facts of the story itself. But then making a buck never stopped turning one big great story into a bunch of littler ones.

I’m not sure which is more unimaginable actually, the scope of what we’re learning through the drip, drip, drip of news stories, or the fact that the editors and publishers of journalistic enterprises like the Washington Post and the Guardian think we haven’t already rolled this into our thinking about life in an always connected world.

Let me just ask you this. How many people do you know that have changed their habits because of these revelations? I know some who are justifiably outraged, but when pressed about whether or not the news will change how they live their lives, I haven’t found one person yet who says it will. There’s a begrudging shoulder shrug of acceptance from most quarters. Maybe we’ll look over our digital shoulders an extra time or two going forward, but I think the world at large has absorbed the bad news that we can’t trust government agencies who use our tax dollars to create and maintain spy agencies.

In my view, the more troubling aspect of this entire surveillance story is not that governments do this kind of thing, but that in some cases they have co-opted major corporations to acquiesce either willingly or passively. By and large most individuals have an innate skepticism of how corporations manipulate us much the same as we distrust government. Whatever trust factor existed in either case should be shattered for all but the hopelessly naive at this point. Even news that some of the tech corporations are working on new encryption technology to hinder this kind of surveillance in the future sounds like silly chatter as they chase the horse that got out of the barn.

And as for the media that keeps dribbling out parts of the story like they’ve discovered something new, hoping to control information like Apple did back in the days before Cupertino couldn’t stop a leak, I’d ask them one simple question: have you seen that this news is changing human behavior in any great fashion? I don’t believe there are any trends to say that it has. Bottom line, I think that’s where the real story lies. Aside from some of the details, these stories have long since bypassed the “man bites dog” aphorism and turned into “cat chases tail.”

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Comments

  1. Crock says

    Don’t play this issue down just because it makes you look bad. Thank you for expressing the opinion of your industry constituents.

  2. Randy says

    Easy fix get A Silent Pocket
    It’s not just the Government and police. Until we get proper legislation making app developers have you op in instead of opting out, you will never know what you have downloaded to your mobile device.
    Using a SilentPocket™ allows you to take control of your own privacy when it comes to Smartphone tracking. With over 1,500,000 mobile app developed for smartphones, many of which are stealth and are eavesdropping on your every move. Some are capable of turning on functions on your phone like your mic, camera, GPS, address book and more, even when it has been turned off.
    There is only one way to stop this if you really want to know for sure that you have control of your mobile device is to block all forms of wifi coming in or going out. Get informed at Silent-Pocket.

  3. GhostsofStasi says

    You are displaying your utter lack of intelligence with your ridiculous commentary. If you don’t know what you are talking about, stay away from the topic. Tools.

  4. Hildy J says

    Think of it this way. It is undeniable that your theater productions would run smoother if you kept your actors under constant surveillance. It may only be one person about to run late once in a year but catching that on your surveillance monitor would make that night’s show run smoother. Besides, if your actors aren’t doing anything wrong, what do they have to worry about?

    Yes, we can assume that the government can track everything we do, listen to everything we say, read everything we write, do all but record everything we think. Some of us think this should stop and we would hope a majority of Americans could, eventually, be convinced to agree with us. But to do that, you need to keep the public’s mind focused and a drumbeat of revelations does this better than a big reveal.

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