NSA STILL SPYING?
GOOGLE & AMAZON STILL RIPPING OFF OUR PERSONAL DATA?
Do you remember the huge explosion of right wing righteous outrage a few years ago when it was revealed – thank you Mr. Snowden - that the National Security Agency (NSA) was monitoring our cell phone exchanges with our friends (and presumably those robo calls we get during our year round political campaigns) as well as recording every keystroke on our Apple I-Pads and Microsoft Surface’s? The Liberal/Progressives wing of America was also not pleased. Personally, it only confirmed what I had suspected for years following a series of strange clicking sounds that suddenly appeared when I used the phone following several media pieces (including fulsome New York Times and Los Angeles Times articles) when a particularly “sensitive” project my firm was working on exploded in controversy across the nation’s news outlets.
But I digress. As you know Congress has totally revamped the rules associated with government spying by passing a comprehensive law reigning in the activities of NSA, ensuring that the FISA courts are always involved in approving NSA’s monitoring activities and making sure that the House and Senate Security Committees are informed of NSA’s spying activities on a daily basis now that Republicans control both the U. S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate given that Democrats are soft on spying.
But I jest! In reality, Congress has done exactly nothing. ZIP. UNDO. NADA. Yup, nothing. NSA is still monitoring our phone calls and still recording our keystrokes without restraint to make us safer (their rationale, not mine) and the righteous right wing outrage has simply disappeared since there have been literally dozens of other shiny objects to pursue like de-funding Obamacare, de-funding Planned Parenthood and making sure that the very tiniest shred of information (aka “evidence”) about the Benghazi tragedy is unearthed to ensure a full and comprehensive airing of who Hillary Clinton was sleeping with on the night of September 11, 2012. (Am I joking?)
In my years-long vigorous and rigorous online battles with right wingers, I posited that while the National Security Agency’s spying was egregious, I found our private companies with God-like powers of omnipresent presence in our lives (Google, Amazon, Yahoo, YouTube, E-Bay AT&T, Verizon and etc.) were no better since they are the are the ones that collect, use and share every bit of our personal information they can with each other and the NSA. (God alone knows with which other entities since they are not required to reveal such information to us.) Well, that argument got no traction because, in the words of many of my virtual fundamentalist opponents, “Private companies can’t send troops to confiscate our firearms in violation of the Second Amendment nor send those same troops out around the country to impose a dictatorship on us like Obama can.”
You can see immediately that my criticism against our corporate life partners went nowhere as a result of the “Obama Effect” which basically says that anything even marginally associated with Obama is evil while everything and anything else (save legal abortions and Hillary Clinton) is A-OK. Plus, there’s the fact that anyone under the age of forty has grown up with the idea that the corporatization of America is the way it’s always been since our Founding Fathers put quill to parchment. I’ve railed constantly against the annoying pop-up, floating, expanding and magically appearing online ads while I’m shopping for Aussie Bum underwear or watching gay porn on my favorite sex site. It’s one thing to have sidebar ads like on Facebook that I ignore (I don’t think I’ve EVER clicked through on even one such ad, but, hey, my memory isn’t what it used to be so I could be wrong about this) but now I have to contend with ads that float across my screen blocking the Huffington Post or Politico piece I was three paragraphs into. Sigh.
The most irritating ads are the ones that you can’t stop but have to watch and listen to until they end before you can get on with what you were doing. The ones where you can “Skip Ad” six or seven seconds into them, at least aren’t so egregious as the former. But the newest wrinkle on ads being forced upon us are the ones that have a video advertisement placed above the article you clicked through to read and you’re halfway down the page by the time it loads and begins playing some loud, annoying jingle about how Super Soft Non-Shredding Whiter Than White Toilet Paper is so much better as dancing cartoon figures demonstrate its strength. Right.
Scarier, however, is how closely and how quickly Google et al follow us. Don’t know about you but I find it particularly creepy when after I’ve purchased a compost bin through Amazon (true story), not five seconds later my Facebook page sports ads for the very one I’ve already purchased and two or three alternatives. Then there was the time (true story) when I was looking to book a hotel room for an upcoming jaunt down to Florida. After spending maybe ten or fifteen minutes exploring the options on Travelocity, in the end I didn’t book anything thinking I wanted to consult with my partner first. But not a minute later there were ads again for five of the hotels I had looked at but had not booked. To me, there’s something really freaky about this. It’s way to Big Brother-ish for my taste. Frankly, I’m not sure why this sophisticated phishing and sharing by our corporate partners (and, yes, we have agreed to this rank violation of our privacy rights – well, not that we have any privacy rights any longer – when we click “Agree” on the 20 page long contracts in 2 point Cambria typeface the first time we sign up for Yahoo or Google or Amazon and E-Bay) isn’t as right wingy egregious as NSA spying.
In fact, I’m willing to bet that Google and Amazon do a far superior job – the private sector always does it better – of collecting our personal information than does the National Security Agency with its huge super computers out there in Greenbelt, Maryland in suburban Washington, D.C. And let’s not forget that Google, Amazon, Verizon and AT&T are the ones who are supplying our government spy agency with the information the NSA is using to protect us and keep us safe.
I’m presuming that Google and Amazon, like the rest of us, clicked “Agree” when they first signed up to populate NSA’s services.
But then again, the internet is still free. There is that. I guess in our Free Market society where corporations rule, our privacy is the price we must pay to be able to log onto Google for free.
Have A NSA/Corporate Blessed Day!