The more and more I learn about government surveillance and privacy policies the more enraged and intrigued I become. This week’s On The Media featured two segments on this topic and how surveillance programs might be abusing their power to access extremely intimate information on American citizens. Personally, these NSA programs seem eerily Orwellian in nature. What truly concerns me is that Americans aren’t more outraged (or even care for that matter) by the fact that our government is collecting personal information, and most of it is being done in secret. My question is, why aren’t people more concerned about this issue? Might this be a leeway into the type of society that George Orwell was trying warn us?
Many people use the “I have nothing to hide” argument as a basis for justification for the NSA’s PRISM program and its blatant violation of privacy. Another argument is that this is being done in order to protect and prevent against possible future terrorist attacks and is therefore necessary and acceptable for the NSA to monitor our personal lives. However, surveillance programs like PRISM and Upstream aren’t excluding names and content from the metadata being collected, as Obama indicated to the public back in 2013. In fact, these programs are doing quite the opposite. Rather than taking steps to protect our constitutional rights to privacy and free speech, the government is overriding this as they are looking at emails, text messages, phone conversations, internet searches and activity, and social media profiles of both non-U.S. citizens and S. citizens. The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter if you feel you have nothing to hide. Just because these program supposedly claim to only surveil non-U.S. citizens does not guarantee that the government won’t target U.S. citizens as well. If a non-U.S. citizen is suspected of terrorist intent, then other citizens might be considered guilty by association just by knowing the person or socially interacting via internet. This completely goes against the juridical principle of “innocent until proven guilty”. In the eyes of the government, you are in fact hiding something and are therefore guilty.
The public’s indifference to government surveillance is quite troubling to me because if Americans are so willing to let go of these freedoms, what else will they be willing to forfeit? How are people so accepting of this? More importantly, how did we become so comfortable with having the details of our private lives being carefully monitored?