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We’ve traded privacy for security

Jury still out on whether that’s OK

By The Mercury

This seems almost impossible, but America must have been asleep until the National Security Agency (NSA) was caught peeping into everyone’s life.

Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked thousands of documents proving the incredible extent of the NSA’s reach, there has been one almost staggering revelation after another about how we (all of humanity, presumably) are being spied upon.

The latest scoop comes from the trusted German magazine Der Spiegel, which broke the story that the NSA has begun rerouting laptops ordered online, implanting malware to allow their spies total access, then shipping them on to customers.


Well, the magazine also revealed — with plenty of documentation — that the NSA has access to everything done and said on every Apple iPhone on the planet.

We don’t know how much of that is exactly true. But it’s beginning to seem reasonable to assume that the government knows an awful lot about all of us.

The intelligence community would say that this is a small price to pay for security from terrorism, and maybe they’re right.

Who knows anymore?

Frankly, we suspect that most Americans already assume they have no truly “private” lives, and that these blockbuster revelations aren’t causing much more than yawns.

We think maybe that once we handed our business and pleasure over to credit cards (shopping at Target lately?), Internet purchases, tweets, Facebook, Instagram and all the rest, we kind of admitted that privacy was a lost cause.

Seriously, how can you sign up for a Facebook account — to use just one of a hundred possible examples — and expect that you can hide from the world?

There is some good news in all of this.


If you are not busy forming an al-Qaida cell and intending to sabotage construction of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF), you’re not likely to have your door kicked in because of information gleaned by the NSA.

In fact, the odds that spies truly might impact your life in some negative way are almost astronomical.

Once you come to grips with the notion that true privacy is long gone for pretty much everyone — and has been for awhile now — law-abiding citizens actually might feel more secure.

Consider all the CCTV cameras that now dot every city, town and parking garage in the civilized world — don’t you feel like there’s more chance they’ll protect you than cause you any problem?

When many of his countrymen objected to all those CCTV eyes and referred to Great Britain as a “nanny state,” former prime minister Tony Blair famously said: “If you don’t do anything wrong, why would you worry?”

We’ve traded privacy for security in more ways than we even understand.

But it’s likely to be a long time before we know whether the swap was a good thing.

In the meantime, common sense suggests you pretend your e-mails are going to be posted on billboards.

Maybe they will be.

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