Monday, May 19, 2014

A Needle in a Haystack: Privacy

Secrets. We all tend to have them. Why we have them varies from person to person. Some people keep secrets because they are afraid that people will be hurt by the truth. Some people like myself just really like to keep their lives private.

Of course, there are also the people who keep secrets because they have impure motivations. Perhaps even motivations to take down the government. 

It was precisely for these secrets that the National Security Administration (hereafter NSA) was created. Through their much publicized efforts, the NSA has created its own databases of all telephone calls in the United States. 

I know that this topic area has pretty much dropped from main coverage. However, I believe that to be an injustice. The NSA is still operating today, and it is not anymore respectful of our rights than when it first came out. We should be just as concerned now as we were then. 

With this organization, the government has access to the sensitive secrets they desire, but at the same time, all of the innocuous secrets that you and I keep and decide to share only with one another are known. 

Our plans for courtship/dating, our job situation, our greatest fears. None of these things may seem harmful for the government to have, but the question shouldn't be why not. The question we ask when we give power to the government needs to be why. 

So why should arbitrarily selected bureaucrats being given access to these areas of our private life? We only entrust certain trusted friends with them as a whole, so why would strangers have this information stored where they can reach it? 

Before we even consider the real fact of abuse within the NSA, we should question the logistics behind the situation completely. We have a right to keep our information private. From anyone we choose. 

But of course, one could argue that to get the national security information, it is necessary to make this sacrifice of this innocuous privacy. If you don't have anything to hide, don't worry about it. 

But to what extent would we carry this anyway? Is every part of our lives just commodities to be used in the government in the name of national security? God forbid. 

That though ignores the point that this database actually isn't helping national security at all. 

I'm not joking. The database that is violating all of our privacy is helping national security nary a bit. 

I am aware that such a huge claim requires some support. As such I am prepared to provide some. 

Looking for sensitive information for national security in private telephone records is like looking for a needle in a haystack. By adding in more innocent people's conversations into the mix, you are simply piling more hay into that stack, making it that much more difficult to find the needle. As Adrienne Kinne who worked with the NSa for 3 years and was recognized with a NSA Joint Service Achievement Medal explains,
"By casting the net so wide and continuing to collect on Americans and aid organizations, it's almost like they're making the haystack bigger and it's harder to find that piece of information that might actually be useful to somebody. You're actually hurting our ability to effectively protect our national security."

So really, all our secrets are being taken only to hinder national security. We are sacrificing our rights and getting nothing in return.

And this has all been under the assumption that the government would always seek our best interests. Nevermind the fact that should they ever turn truly tyrannical, they will have at their disposal everything they could possibly need to manipulate us. Our desires, our dreams, our decision-making processes, our very fears, all that makes us tick as individuals - all there to coerce us to their will should they so desire.

At least we have a relief in knowing that they have a large haystack to sort through to find our needle of information. That's something I guess.

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