Monday, November 04, 2013

But I have nothing to hide

The NSA has had many of their activities exposed to the light of day over the last several months thanks to the actions of Edward Snowden. I have been following the developments, and while each one is interesting viewed on it's own, it is the overview that I would like to examine at this time.

The defenders of the NSA started out claiming that it wasn't doing anything wrong, and it was only whatever was exposed that week and it was perfectly legal and proper. No spying was taking place on citizens, no spying was taking place at all. That line has vanished from the news stories now, and the defenders are either giving no comment, or vague we didn't know excuses.

But what does it all mean? Foreign Policy has a long write up that I won't even bother to excerpt, as I couldn't do it justice.

What it all means is that we have allowed what we consider to be our right to privacy to be eroded. Some of that is a misplaced idea that we have nothing to hide, some of it has eroded from court cases where the seizure of things that would appear to violate the Constitutional proscriptions is allowed in this case, and that one, and if we're going to allow that, why not this? That's the problem, when you find one exception, you lay the ground work for dozens more.

The founders when they wrote and agreed to the Constitution never imagined that documents or the papers mentioned in the 4th Amendment would one day be made up of electronic ones and zeros. Such an ideal was so beyond the imaginings of the thinkers of the era that while we take it for granted now, it was an inconceivable fantasy then.

What was "science fiction" at the time? Benjamin Franklin was the Ambassador to France when he viewed the drawings of Michelangelo. Franklin wrote after seeing a drawing of a parachute full of wonder. Imagine how much mischief could be caused by a group of men who were parachuted behind the enemy lines until a sufficient force was raised to stop them. That is a paraphrase, but the foundation of the Paratroopers who made such an impact in World War II, nearly a century and a half after those words were written, and several centuries after the pictures were drawn.

Science Fiction was the idea that men could fly in heavier than air craft, balloons were only just starting to be created. Science Fiction was a ship that sailed not by the whim of the wind, but by some mechanical contrivance.

So it is impossible that the idea of electronic information being a personal document was so far beyond where the Founders were mentally, that it was not even worth considering. So where does that leave us? Your emails left on the server are not your electronic documents after 180 days, they are not protected by even minimal restrictions. Your cell phone has a GPS which is required to protect you, and is also handy in tracking you. The Supreme Court has decided that if you share information with an institution, say a bank, that you no longer have the expectation of Privacy. Then the Government requires that the bank have far more information than they did have, for your protection, and to catch tax cheats and drug dealers.

In the end, our expectation of Privacy is much lower, and even that lower standard is violated by the NSA. But is that a good thing? Many of us think it isn't a good thing. A friend asked if I wanted to see the hands of police tied. My answer was no, not tied, hog tied where my privacy is concerned.

The police should not be allowed to go into my phone without a warrant. They should not be allowed to see anything that is not plainly visible without a warrant. They should not be able to track me with my phone, and they should not be allowed to lie to get a search warrant. If they do lie to get such a warrant, they should be prosecuted and jailed without mercy.

The Government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people. We are not here to help the government, it is here to serve us. We pay the salaries, and the funds that make the Government work, and they should answer to us. Instead, the entire thing has flipped and now we answer to the people we are paying.

In time, we'll see where these NSA revelations take us. Perhaps the people are now outraged enough to demand more privacy from their Government. But too many of us are still operating on the flawed idea. I have nothing to hide is not the way you run the policy of a nation, not unless you want Big Brother in reality. It doesn't matter if you feel you have nothing to hide, they shouldn't be looking is the point.

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