In this modern age of digital realities, is it really this shocking that agencies such as the NSA are “spying” on us?

It’s difficult for me to organize my thoughts when events occur like Eric Snowden, now former NSA technician, purposely leaked information that the US government is intercepting basically all forms of digital communications without targeting. Difficult, because the implications of his allegations— including that all major internet providers and social media companies have given the government direct access to their information (something Google, Facebook et al have vehemently denied)— are so far reaching.

Of course a person’s right to personal privacy is important. But, amid all the knee-jerk reaction from the Far-Left that Snowden (and before him Julian Assange) is a hero and the government pigs responsible need to be held accountable, I can’t help but feel torn on the issue. How bad is this, really?

It’s funny to me that the Far-Left are the ones crucifying the government’s breach of “privacy” and preaching an attitude of distrust when it’s usually they who believe in big government. The Left want the government in every facet of their lives from environmental protection to healthcare to social assistance and other big government programs, but suddenly when words like “national security” are tossed around, the left whine about Big Brother.

This in no way is meant as praise of the Right, by the way, the opposite is completely true of them as well: Why is big government okay when its snooping through your emails, but not okay when it’s providing you with affordable healthcare?

Let’s talk about the issue at hand here, privacy, and what that means today. The standards of privacy from 60 years ago cannot conceivably be considered relevant today*. The world has changed and for better or worse, what information we consider to be private has changed along with it. For many of us, the internet is our business card. Almost anything you want to know about me is to varying degrees accessible on various social sites and I’m hardly the only one who can say that. Is there anyone who considers themselves technologically-abled who truly believes that the information we have sitting out there in the digital universe is private?
*Nor can gun laws from 200 years ago, but that’s a topic for a different conversation

The very nature of the internet means we rely on organizations and corporations for its existence and for us to have access to it. It is not a tangible thing. Who the internet belongs to and who owns the information therein are important issues. A lot of these ideas reside firmly in gray area, but to believe that your personal data— especially that which you have volunteered into cyberspace— remains private is nothing short of gross naïveté.

I understand the fear of a possible abuse of powers, but what I don’t understand is the outrage to the programs themselves. Would we expect anything less from intelligence agencies faced with the growing possibility of attack from within than to collect intelligence from within? If they weren’t trying to create programs like this, I’d be wondering where my (Americans’) money was going.

He may not be a treacherous villain, but I’m pretty certain Snowden is no hero, either. I may be wrong. It’s entirely possible that as a result of this “whistleblowing,” as we seem determined to call it, we find out the government has been doing something truly evil with all of this intelligence gathering. But, if this is the extent of Snowden’s revelations— basically that intelligence agencies are gathering intelligence (much of which we’ve recorded ourselves)— I for one couldn’t be further from outraged.

It raises a lot of interesting points, and I understand both sides of the argument. It’s not easy to decide where the balance between security and privacy should lay. But let’s for once be adults and accept that intelligence and counter-intelligence are dirty games that are essential to our security and spare me your indignation and outrage for something outrageous.


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