The recent leaks from the National Security Agency, and its vast data grab on everything from our cell phone conversations to our Gmail and Facebook accounts, has called out for a clear and concise statement from the folks in Washington D.C., as well as the leaders of the huge “big data” tech companies that rule our lives.
Instead of a clear statement, I seem to only hear recriminations about the leaker of this information, Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. Classic misdirection. Let’s take a step back: who cares about this one person? There are serious issues that have been raised, much bigger issues than one lone whistle-blower.
Our leaders, such as they are, have a responsibility to protect us from physical harm, like terrorism. They also have a responsibility to protect us from their own illegal searches and seizures, as spelled out in the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. The old argument that if “you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide” is ridiculous. The next time the police pound on your door and demand to take a look in your coat closet, or rifle through your kitchen junk drawer, I will quote this line back to you. Does the term “probable cause” mean anything anymore?
Google, Apple, Facebook, among other “big data” marketers, also must protect our privacy. Since when did we give up this fundamental principal? Why is a picture of my daughter blowing out her birthday candles on Facebook, not protected by the Constitution? Why is the phone call to my accountant about the taxes I owe, not protected from NSA eavesdropping? It’s a scary world we live in.
I voted for the current president twice, and I am not ashamed to admit that I was elated when the previous White House occupant and his cronies left the stage in early 2009. But the President’s off-handed remark of essentially, “trust us, we know what’s best for you”, was a disturbing display of presidential overreach. It reminded me of a quote from George Orwell’s classic ‘1984’: “Power is not a means; it is an end… The object of power is power.” Perhaps Obama was too busy studying his law books to read classic literature back in his Harvard years.
As an advertising and marketing professional in the industry for more than 20 years, I have never seen such hubris from big marketers claiming “Don’t Be Evil”, as Google states in it’s famous mantra. Well, turning over our emails and web searches to the U.S. intelligence establishment does “do harm”, Mr. Page and Mr. Brin.
So, this is what I say: the next time the government comes knocking, Mr. Cook, Mr. Gates, et al, give them a simple response: “Go Away”. But how likely is this to happen, when your companies have been doing essentially the same data mining for years? What moral standing do you have?
As a final result, all of us are complicit in our own apathy. Just like Winston Smith in ‘1984’ eventually learned to love his leaders for the protection they promised, we will all be lead, blindly, voluntarily, into the warmth and safety of Big Brother’s protective embrace.