Our Expectation of Privacy
What if everything you said was made public knowledge? What if your boss knew that you had been looking for a new job online? Do you want everyone to know your personal beliefs on every issue? In our society we have a certain expectation of privacy. There are some things about ourselves that we care not to share with those around us, or in some cases we cannot share with others in fear of retaliation. Even our founders needed some privacy from time to time. Jefferson, Madison, and others utilized the non de plume in an effort to protect their identities when writing on controversial topics. However, we have entered into an era where we are not linked to our name, but to our computer records. Frighteningly, anything we post, view, or link to online or via or smartphone is subject to government eyes. For most of us, we will never we will never know what information the government has taken, or for what purpose it will be used. Regardless, the mere fact of knowing that our personal information is public fodder diminishes our freedom of expression. As Stephen King stated in Firestarter, “No one likes to see a government folder with his name on it.”
The issue of online privacy not only has a domestic impact, but has started to impact our foreign relations as well. News reports recently surfaced regarding the negative impact the NSA scandal has had on our relationship with Brazil. Fearing similar spying, some countries, such as Germany, have taken a proactive approach and have started a service to encrypt private emails and store them where they are harder to obtain by prying eyes. At this time, the law is not clear on such services. It will be interesting to see how this issue unfolds over the next few years.