There are times when a story, or a person, just makes you want to smack your forehead in disbelief.
Take, for example, 68-year-old Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligence, who wants Americans to redefine what privacy really is.
Last I checked, and you may have a different dictionary than I, but privacy meant “the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs.”
What’s his new definition of privacy? That government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information, according to CNN.
How ludicrous is that?
Government safeguarding my financial information … Umm, I think not. The only businesses I want to have any access to my bank accounts are those I have accounts open with.
As far as my communications are concerned, the government should have no business poking its nose in my business. I have nothing to hide, mind you, but I’d like to think the government has better things to do than worry about what I’m talking about on the phone, or e-mailing to my family and friends.
Like maybe finding a way to get us out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Get us out of those wars, and I’ll grant you access to anything you want to know about me, OK?
With Internet sites like Myspace, or Facebook, Kerr said that Americans are essentially giving up privacy anyway by posting personal information on such social networking sites. “Those two generations younger than we are have a very different idea of what is essential privacy, what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs. And so, it’s not for us to inflict one size fits all,” said Kerr, 68. “Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that.”
True, anyone with access to Google has at one time or another typed their name into the search engine. But, what comes up is in the public domain. Your bank numbers aren’t going to pop up in a Google search, hell, not even the bank you belong to will come up as part of the search.
What we don’t expect, and maybe we should, is the government to keep tabs on what we’re putting into the public domain.
Hell, my cell phone conversations are pretty boring, to be honest. I don’t know too many national secrets, and the only secrets I divulge over my phone have to do with the inner workings of my employer when an issue comes up that the union I belong to needs to know about.
But, if the government believed the person I was talking to was outside the United States, it could legally listen in on those conversations, because of the hasty changes made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act during the summer. The change to the FISA law makes it legal for the government to eavesdrop on American phone calls and sift through e-mails without a court order.
The original law stated a court order must be present to ensure privacy. The Bush White House argued that the law, as it was written in 1978, obstructed intelligence gathering, because, as technology has changed, a growing percentage of foreign communications pass through American-based channels.
The issue in front of Congress is whether or not to include legislation that will shield telecommunications companies, like AT&T, from civil lawsuits that allege companies gave the government access to customer’s private emails and phone calls without FISA oversight between 2001 and 2007, according to CNN.
Some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are hesitant to grant immunity, because lawsuits might be the only way to find out how far the government has dug into citizen’s lives.
Right in step, the White House has threatened to veto any legislation that would not shield those companies from lawsuits, which answers many questions about how far they’ve dug into citizens lives for no good reason.
From this White House, who can say they are surprised? I certainly am not. And it’s not because I’m a Bush hater. It’s simply because I do not trust anything this White House has done since it took control of the country in 2000.
Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer for Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group that defends online free speech, said Kerr’s arguments for changing the definition of privacy are way off base. “There is something fundamentally different from the government having information about you than private parties,” he said to CNN. “We shouldn’t have to give people the choice between taking advantage of modern communication tools and sacrificing their privacy.”
He said Kerr ignores the distinction between government butting into citizens’ lives and voluntarily disclosing information in exchange for services.
Maybe my generation is a little too loose with what we put online, but to completely redefine privacy because of what we volunteer to put online these days is ludicrous.
Ludicrous, there’s a word that needs another entry in the good old dictionary. To put it simply: This White House, and what it’s done to this country.