Fresh Takes Opinion — 27 March 2014

Travis Danner

Special to The Express

Privacy is dead.

Sure, President Barack Obama announced some pretty strong reforms to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk data collection practices on March 24 in an attempt to limit the amount of personal phone data the agency can have access to and the duration of time such records could be kept.

But if anyone thinks the using of people’s personal information to keep tabs on us will go away is kidding themselves.

We’re way too far down the rabbit hole now. Technology has advanced to the point where that cat is now out of the bag. “National security” will trump privacy in the priorities of the powers that be from now until perpetuity.

The NSA’s “PRISM” program, initiated in 2007, allowed the federal government access to any information a court (whose sole function was to grant such requests) deemed to match search terms in any type of investigation they deemed acceptable. So, if you have ever done research on terrorism, or anything else that lead you to search certain terms, chances are you’re on some kind of government watch list.

Who knows, maybe you made an off-color joke in a phone call or on Facebook and now you’re on a list somewhere of potential terrorists. No one really knows, we know so little of how the NSA really operates.

Under the new restrictions, phone companies would only be required to keep data no longer than it normally would and a new court would be created to oversee requests for records and altering the methods in which data has to be requested.

But really, the federal government gets what the federal government wants and if they want your data, there’s a pretty darn good chance they’ll still be able to get it.

We put some much of our information and really, our lives, online and over phones that the government must now consider acts committed online to being under many of the same jurisdictions as physical acts. What feels private, you on your phone or a computer, is most likely closely monitored. Not just for spying, but for advertising purposes as well.

Where you go, how you ended up there, how much time you spent there, how much money you spent. These records are meticulously kept and stored for later use to better predict how companies allot their resources. That type of surveillance is in no danger of going anywhere.

Really, we don’t seem to mind too much about that. People tend to like commercials and companies are getting better and better at tracking your movements, predicting your behavior and targeting specific advertising to you, the individual consumer.

We’re being watched, here in the digital age, to the point where there must exist a total profile of every individual human in this country. What we like, what we don’t, what we do.

The thing is, we put out that information willingly. As long as we continue to do so, institutions from across the spectrum of function will seek to acquire and utilize all information available to them to reach a variety of goals in law enforcement and business, among others.

There’s a new gold rush that has been going for several decades — the rush to acquire and accumulate useful information. The digital age is the information age and the person or body that holds the most information holds the advantage.

Privacy is dead because it was too valuable to live.

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We are the award-winning student newspaper of Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif.

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