NSA Surveillance Here to Stay
Obama is like a magician. He waves one hand wildly to get your attention. Meanwhile the other hand is doing stuff he hopes you won’t notice.
His latest sleight-of-hand is an attempt to placate the American people with “reforms” to the NSA’s enormous intelligence gathering operation. The reforms won’t really change anything, but he hopes you’ll be so impressed with the show that you’ll ignore those pesky details.
The fact remains that the government’s surveillance program isn’t just a threat to your privacy. It’s already shredded it. And the program isn’t going anywhere.
If pressed, the administration and the NSA will rename it and insist that it isn’t being abused, so we shouldn’t worry about it.
But we should be concerned … very concerned.
How Surveillance Harms America
If you’ve ever gotten in an argument with someone over the dangers of government spying, you know how frustrating it can be.
You hear things like, “I’m willing to sacrifice my privacy so the government can catch terrorists.” And, “I don’t see how it’s really hurting anyone.” Or my favorite: “If people don’t have anything to hide, it shouldn’t matter.”
But the truth of the matter is that these programs do hurt Americans. They hurt all of us. It’s just hard to take an objective measure of the damage.
According to the experts, these are just some of the consequences of a government spying on its own citizens:
- It suppresses intellectual creativity—people who know they are being watched or believe they’re being watched behave differently.
- It suppresses business innovations for the same reason.
- It’s subject to abuse. The people doing the monitoring can easily misuse the information they gather for blackmail or intimidation.
- It damages communities—inevitably government surveillance programs extend out to include “citizen reporting” and when that happens neighbors stop trusting each other.
The level of damage that the federal government’s spying operation has done to the economy is impossible to measure. But it’s easy to imagine business professionals deciding to put off the development of new products or services that might attract unwanted attention.
And it’s easy to imagine people from every walk of life hesitating before speaking an opinion out of fear of being noticed by the IRS or the Department of Justice.
The idea of abuse is a foregone conclusion. Every surveillance program in the history of the United States has eventually been abused, and a former deputy director of the CIA has openly admitted that he knows of abuses committed by NSA personnel. He tries to dismiss the abuses as minor, but that’s beside the point.
Never before have we seen surveillance on such a massive scale. And in the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, “The president has very clearly said that he wants to keep the capability… So I think we would agree with him. I know a dominant majority of the — everybody, virtually, except two or three, on the Senate Intelligence Committee would agree with that.”
We won’t see the end of the NSA’s spying program any time soon.
Where Does That Leave You?
It used to be that you didn’t have to give much thought to protecting your privacy. If you locked up your papers and didn’t give out your private details, you were okay.
In today’s world, you have to be much more careful with everything from who you share your personal information with to how you shop online to what you post on social media to how you use your cell phone. You even have to take care about you type into a search engine like Google.
Fortunately, you can take steps to limit your exposure in all these areas.
Restrict your personal details: Outside of government channels, you’ll be asked to provide your social security number when opening a bank account, applying for a loan, seeking medical care, or taking on a new job. Beyond these situations, think carefully before releasing your social security number to anyone. Look for ways to avoid these situations, as well. For example, you could pay cash for a cheaper, used car rather than taking out a loan for a newer model.
Avoid cell phones: I know that sounds crazy in this day and age of hyper-connectivity, but if you can get away without using a cell phone, that’s a big step toward living a more private life. If you need a cell phone for work, power it off when you aren’t using it. According to some reports, the NSA can still track its location even when powered down, but it requires certain updates be present on your phone, so it’s possible switching off will provide some protection.
Use common sense online: When you’re online, whether you’re surfing, sharing, or shopping, it’s safest to assume that you’re being monitored. Don’t search, post, or buy anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable with your neighbors, boss, and the IRS knowing about.
Beyond that, the only way to end this wholesale attack on privacy is to vote out the people in Congress who support it. We have an election coming up, so find out what your representative’s position is on the matter, and vote accordingly.
P.S. — Want to bolster your privacy-defenses even further? Learn The 21 Biggest Privacy Mistakes Most Americans are Making and How You Can Avoid Them.
Listen, if you’ve put this off, I totally get why. Sometimes it just seems overwhelming. There are so many privacy-stealing initiatives out there that it’s hard to know where to start. But don’t despair! You can take it one step at a time. I’ve broken it into bite-sized pieces. No overnight makeovers. No all-nighters.
I promise, I’ve taken out all of the guesswork, and boiled privacy defense down to 253 simple, practical action items. You can get started today!