Part of me is happy that Edward Snowden decided to talk about the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) last week. And part of me wants him thrown in jail for compromising our national security.
I think I feel the same as many Americans. Our most primal emotion–fear–has convinced us to allow our government to take unprecedented measures to find people who are potential threats to our security. At the same time, we have become increasingly wary of the amount of privacy we’ve surrendered to social media and our online activities, and this concern has grown deeper knowing our data is being watched by the Feds. Those of us who have read George Orwell’s 1984 and other similarly prophetic works know that the specter of government intrusion is frightening. After all, do we really want the screens we watch to be looking back at us?
But they already do and have been for years, most notably as we all began to use the Internet. We understand that our surfing and buying habits have become tremendous resources for those wishing to influence our attitudes and sell us stuff, yet we still get creeped out when we see ads pop up that make us wonder, “How did ‘they’ know I wanted to buy one of those?” The level of creepiness only rises when we start worrying how the government might be analyzing and then using the same bits and bytes that become our digital profiles.
So, the reason I’m partially happy about Snowden and the NSA is that an open debate on this issue is really important. The NSA’s and President Obama’s public relations challenge is to determine how transparent they should and can be regarding the government’s activities. Initially, the president needs to step up and find the words to calm our concerns. Then we have to have a serious national conversation about how our data is being used. We need a good, long debate on how we can create a compromise between our protecting our lives and protecting our privacy. Your thoughts?