Why is the NSA collecting US citizen’s telephone calling data, a big story? Why isn’t the same amount of outrage directed at credit card companies, software companies that use adware, spyware and “cookies”? Hell, even your local grocery store collects data about your purchases. I don’t see many urgent news stories stirring up mass hysteria over their collecting of data.
Even before the introduction of high tech tracking, we had no real privacy. Even the slowest learning clerk at the local 7-11 will eventually recognize you and remember what brand cigarettes or beer you purchased. Back in the day “party lines” were not political; they were telephone lines that serviced a number of homes instead of being dedicated to just one household. If you were bored you could pick up the telephone a listen to your neighbor’s conversations.
Now things are just more automated. We sign up for discount cards, which save us a few cents on the dollar in exchange for allowing the tracking of our purchases. Why? So stores can make money targeting us with advertisements and those extra coupons, which are spit out along with your purchase receipt.
Now, we trade our info for software tools and toys like specialty search bars and messenger programs. All which collect and track data. We allow it routinely when we check the “I Accept” box when installing their software.
So why is it okay for all these groups to collect data? It’s a trade-off. We willingly trade a small amount of our privacy for a few pennies…for “easier” web searching…for faster service and to save us from having to repeatedly sign-in to a website.
But the second it involves the government we have some primal, knee-jerk reaction. Well folks, it is no different and no more complicated than checking the “I Accept” box. The trade-off is that we slightly increase the likelihood of stopping a future terrorist attack.
Yes, I admit it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But what would I give to save just one life? A hundred? A thousand? I admit I’d give a lot. So if they want my phone records…they can freaking have ‘em.
I don’t know how much good it would do anyway. I imagine tracking phones usage records is a lot like the “butterfly effect” or playing “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. Given the time and data I am sure you could link my phone use to yours. I call my friend, who calls his Mom, who calls her hairdresser, whose husband works at the local auto repair shop and he calls you to tell you, your car will be ready later that afternoon at twice the estimated repair price…and BINGO! We are connected. Trying to find calling patterns of terrorists out of that mess must be a nightmare.
But blaming the government for reacting to a threat, instead of blaming those who pose the threat is sure as hell not gonna get us anywhere.