Privacy is dead

John Hepp, Editor-In-Chief

Our privacy is dead, and no one seems to care. Our phone calls, text messages and search histories are available to both the government and private companies. Our data is no longer our own.

The reasons that our data is taken or shared aren’t inherently bad; the government passed the Patriot Act to find and stop terrorists, and companies use our data to better recommend things for use, such as products or social media feeds. The problem is that they didn’t ask if they could use our data. They simply took it. And this is just what we know about publicly.

In 2013, Edward Snowden unearthed that the National Security Agency was secretly tracking U.S. citizens on a widespread scale. There were very few government checks to what the NSA was doing; they just had the autonomy to mostly do what they wanted. Part of what makes it so hard is that the American people cannot solve a problem which they do not know exists, which is exactly why our government strives to hide their surveillance from us. They know that it’s undemocratic and tyrannical, but they simply don’t care.     

We as citizens must have a voice as to whether or not these programs should be allowed to happen—that’s how a democracy works. For our government to unilaterally impose these programs is unconstitutional at best and tyrannical at worst. The government doesn’t give itself power; the people do. This is government power run amok, and this is just the start.  

Part of the problem is the nonchalant approach most people take to their data being stolen. They simply don’t care, because it doesn’t really affect them—not right now at least. What’s happening now is just the start of a very slippery slope. It may start out benign: advertisers trying to sell you things, or the government trying to keep people safe.

The worst case scenario is already happening in China, where millions of cameras surveil people at all times.They’re even giving Chinese citizens social credit scores, which can be used to blacklist people for not obeying the government. This results in open oppression of certain minority groups and a clearly defined social hierarchy. It’s straight out of “1984,” and we can sit here and say that something like that would never happen in the U.S., but the building blocks for it are already in place. After seeing what Snowden unearthed within the NSA, it is beyond naive to believe that it couldn’t happen here. Complacency to this problem will only make it worse; those that steal our privacy will continue to walk all over us unless we stand up and tell them no.

 In real terms, though, what can we do about it? How can we stop overbearing government surveillance? I fear that there’s nothing we can do about it. I fear that it’s a problem that won’t get solved, that will keep getting worse. The average person simply doesn’t care enough to do anything about it, and that’s the scariest part. What we must do to stop this from happening is educate ourselves on the problem, and when things like the Patriot Act come up, we as citizens stand up and say no. A government is designed to serve its people, not control them.