Many discussions about protecting American freedoms and the American way of life take place in rhetoric about the American Armed Forces and their campaigns abroad. Fighting threats from terrorists, protecting American interests abroad and helping to depose vicious dictators. But what about protecting our freedoms at home? Our individual freedom to privacy?
The first major controversy regarding American’s privacy and communications technology came in October 2001, with the passing of the USA PATRIOT Act. Among many other things, some of the most controversial aspects of the Act gave the Federal Government the ability to wire tap phones, access IP addesses and collect customer communcations history without securing a warrant.
Fast-forward to 2012. Companies like Google and Facebook collect our information for everything we do through their service (for example, Google keeps track of every single website you visit and analyses that data to provide “better service” to you and to “customize your internet experience based on your interests and patterns in search history”). As our assigned reading for the week, by CNN’s Andrew Keen, points out, as we continue to demand a more personal experience from our smartphones and other ICTs, it will require such devices to gather, store and analyse more and more of our own personal data. Your iPhone has a GPS in it that tracks your every move – helpful for when you lose your phone, but scary that a private company knows your exact location at all times (assuming you have your phone on and on you).
It’s hard to believe that congress hasn’t taken more action to regulate and protect our private information. In fact, the government has done the opposite! President Obama signed a 3-year extension of the USA PATRIOT Act on March 26, 2011. Only recently have our congressional leaders begun to look at the security of our personal information and information-storing companies like Google, Facebook and Apple. Al Franken (DFL), a Senator from Minnesota, is leading the charge on privacy. If this information is so unsecure in our country, imagine the possibilities of implementing this kind of technology in the developing world, where dictators, military regimes and government’s with less respect for civil liberties, may have access to all of their citizen’s personal and private information.
For more information, I have included a link to an op-ed written by Al Franken (MN-DFL) on Wired.com.