Monday, March 23, 2020

They Know Everything About You


The internet allows people to be better connected, informed, expressive, but it also allows others to exploit us. But part of that is because we let them.   The book was published in 2015 so in this world that has advanced technologically it is out of date.  However as I prepare to write this there are reports that the current  coronavirus pandemic is providing an excuse to suspend some constitutional rights.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitution protects privacy as expressed against unreasonable searches whether in the home or wiretapping. Most nations provide protection against invasions against privacy requiring special permission to investigate criminal behavior.  In short an individual's freedom can be measured against the intrusion of society into our most inner reality.

Power is an addicting thing.  Some enjoy the benefits (money, sex, deference).  Others crave it to accomplish goals.  I was distressed to learn that Barrack Obama was among those who wanted to prolong the government's ability to check on personal information with the idea that it was necessary to protect national security.  I can only speculate that he weighed the pros and cons and felt national security needed support.

As we were all a bit knowledgeable about how the inter net put power into corporations back in 2015,
the awareness of today is we know a lot of the gathered information is used to steer us to buy some products and services and even to manipulate our votes. Because of the convenience of the inter-net which was incomprehensible to me only a few decades ago we too after casually weighing the pros and cons opt to keeping our Facebook and Twitter accounts, to use credit and debit cards to make purchases, to use Google to gain information of interest, etc. etc. In short we have sold some of our privacy for convenience.

I remember seeing a movie about Edward Snowden and one point I remember is that our keystrokes can be known.  Some powerful people, including Obama denied Snowden the claim of being a whistle blower and have made him  a fugitive.   He did us all a favor by at least making us aware of somethings going on that affect us all.

The author explains that because we have accepted the bargain with the inter--net they are now able to gather more information and analyze it for the benefit of corporations that use it to increase their profits.  There is concern about our rights to privacy, but efforts have been made to protect personal information and there is a constant.   The governments have gained access to a lot of personal information, but are supposed to have special  judicial permission to pursue.  When there is an emergency the government is able to gain easier access to information.

There have been immense changes in society since the Constitution was written, but the basic principles are still a concern.  Chief Justice John Roberts argued that mobile devices contained privacies of life and needed to be protected from warrantless searches without probable cause.

Apparently not too long ago Canadians could be denied entry to the United States if anti-American sentiments could be found on their Facebook accounts.

The government reserves the right to classify information in the interests of national security, however selective leaks are too often made while information of public interest can be blocked as was illustrated with the Mueller Report that hid a lot of embarrassing information.

Personally I am normally open about my knowledge and opinions, but am more conscious that no matter your opinion there is somebody in the world who can use it against you and in some cases would wish you harm.

The author contends that we need to more careful of what allow the government to learn about us.  Privacy is something that benefits everyone with peace of mind.  Yes there are abuses, but there are legal remedies.   The author suggests that they rely to much on personal information and  not necessarily on information conducive to understanding.  An example is ISIS which grew as extension of the Iraq invasion and a failure to understand religious beliefs in the Middle East.

The battle will be ongoing.  I would like to end with a quote from the author;  "We know...that unchallenged authority will not only violate human rights, but also will unfortunately sow the seeds of its own ruin, increasingly blind to its own limitations and flaws."

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