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Do We Have a Right to Internet Privacy or an Obligation to Disclosure?

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Many in America are speaking of how the right to privacy is being assaulted by FaceBook and other social media sites who have agreed to allow the monitoring of their users' posts by government agencies.   Though these actions do stir the mind of anyone wishing our nation was more just and our freedoms weren't being ripped apart one by one by nationalistic paranoia and religious revivalism, if one spends a moment to consider the issue in full, a few questions arise that beg to be answered: Do we actually have a right to privacy in a public forum and should fight to protect said freedom or should we be willingly allowing and supporting the efforts of our government to watch us for the sake of National Security?

These questions came to mind after reading a post on my own FaceBook page concerning a petition drive entitled, Tell the ITU: The Internet Belongs to Us .   The petition asks that we all stand against the International Telecommunications Union's plan to control the internet. These plans reportedly include "giving countries full control over the information and communication infrastructure within their state" and "license to inspect private e-mail".   Fees have also been suggested which "would limit our ability to access sites like Google and FaceBook." The site asks readers to sign the petition to stop the Union from controlling our avenues of communication.   Whether it would help in any way to sign said petition is a matter for conjecture but the issue is disturbing, nonetheless.

The first reaction most freedom loving people have to this reality is one of frustration. They are not terrorists so why are they being "watched" and why is information being controlled or kept from them? To members of a nation concerned about their government's leaning toward an ever increasing Police State, moves to control and contain our increasing dissatisfaction with their form of "representation", causes great concern.   After all, we are supposed to be a free nation, right?   We are supposed to be a Democratic Republic, represented by a government for the people; not against them.  

The powers that be though, have taken notice of how the Libyan riots and other, "Arab Spring" protests were orchestrated by FaceBook interaction so it would reasonably stand they would want to control that interaction to avoid any further rebellion. To this end, many nations including the United States, are actively trying to implement programs to increase their power to monitor all sites for "anti-patriotic" activities and are collaborating to take complete control of the internet.

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In places like Syria or North Korea, one would expect a certain amount of censorship but now that America is adopting the same intrusive policies, the reality of our devolving into a lesser system of rule has become apparent.   The sad truth is, any paranoid government which fears backlash from its own actions would monitor its people to keep them from protesting said action. Given America's military policies of the past eleven years, expecting our government to not embrace the policy of monitoring We the People for the protection and proliferation of their militaristic rule, is naïve at best.

Welcome to Reality

Try as you might to convince yourself that the Internet is "ours", the reality is quite the opposite.   The internet is wholly owned by corporations through which our ability to search topics, interact with each other electronically and perform our jobs, is channeled.   It is not a private entity where if our messages are read we have somehow become victims of intrusion into our private lives. Comments and activities within this corporate arena are essentially owned and therefore, open to sharing and censorship by those who control the site.   Though it is discomforting to think postings are being used to profile users, the reality is that we have no right to privacy within a "public" forum.   Posting words or articles on social media and expecting them to stay private is akin to standing in a public square, yelling out obscenities but thinking only your friends across the way can hear you.

It would seem that We the People may have lost our perspective in the areas of privacy and information disclosure.   After all, never before in the history of mankind has the global community been so interconnected or informed of governmental and societal goings on as we are now nor have we ever have such diversity of media sources to gather information from.   Not until the technological revolution of the 1990's did we even have access to the internet, e-mail or 290 channels on the television. When the internet became popular, we gained a new perspective; a new freedom of information.   Before that time, our news was isolated to papers, radio and a few news channels.   The information revolution via the internet and an ever expanding news media has changed that, quite significantly.

With violence raging across the globe, maybe we should be accepting and welcoming the monitoring of our sites and e-mails to assist our government and help them find those who would commit acts of hate here, in America.   If stronger monitoring had been in place, Representative Gabriel Gifford and others may not have been shot in Arizona.   Her assailant posted his planned actions days before he committed his crime.   The Columbine teens did the same and one could argue that if stronger monitoring had been in place, 9/11 would have been foiled (maybe -- wink, wink). Given copycat criminals and media serving as idea wells for them to follow in the footsteps of the truly violent, maybe we should be supporting internet spying and censorship instead of fighting it.  

For the sake of argument, just imagine what would happen if there was complete secrecy on the net as so many insist should exist: If a bomb went off in a downtown somewhere in America and your children were in the blast zone, would you not be among the first to shout out as so many did post-9/11, insisting that the government should have been aware it was going to happen and acted to stop it?   But then again, there is the question of whether we should have some form of privacy or even, protection from unconstitutional laws like indefinite detention where words spoken in frustration could be used to wrongly accuse a person of plotting against the State and without charges, be held as the title suggests; indefinitely.

Power Corrupts

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As seen of late, the U.S. government does not operate as We the People think it should or wished it did.   The concept of Big Brother watching us in an Orwellian fashion has become all too real but the truth is, Law Makers and those in the Pentagon, CIA and FBI who operate outside of the Law, are afraid of our connectedness. They say they are imposing these intrusive laws only to "protect" our nation from terrorism (which more correctly should be called retaliation) when the truth of the matter is that they are afraid of uprisings right here in America by those of us who are aware of the broken economic and legislative system which they created.

As has been said, Power corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.   With the institution of the "Patriot" Act and National Security Act, SOPA, CISPA, CIA special operations and a Police State intended to dissuade any movement against the in-place oligarchy; our freedom has become a matter of perspective which is swiftly becoming myopic in the dusk of global, governmental control over our nation. In an ideal world ruled by the just, some monitoring would be acceptable to preserve our nations against those who would do us harm but anytime one gives a corrupt system power to pry into their lives, those entrenched within the bowels of it's offices will always want more and more until all freedoms of privacy become a distant memory and corruption takes the place of representation.  

We the People have always had the wonderful ideal of freedom in the past. Now though, we are living in an increasingly dense collective.   Given the inherent characteristic of population growth, violence and moral degradation increase in conjunction with over crowding and resource stresses, it would follow that an increased police force to control the violence in this crowded population would grow in conjunction with it.   As evidenced of late, it has certainly done that.  

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Steven Forrest is a Project Architect living in St. Petersburg, Florida. Currently, he is working to implement Green Building initiatives in several communities across Florida. Given the current situation in America and the continued (more...)

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