Hey Scalzi, Don’t You Have Anything Angry to Say About That PRISM Thing?
Uh, mostly not, because apparently I was the only person in the US who assumed the government was already doing something very much like this? Because it was doing it under Bush, and if Obama had gotten around to stopping doing it, his administration would have made a big deal about it, no? And since the Obama Administration never said a single word about it that I can recall, it was probably still going on? So I guess what I would say is, yeah, seems not surprising in the least, why are you suddenly freaked out about it?
This is separate and independent from the question of whether the government should be vacuuming up every single bit of information out there in our communication channels, to which my reflexive answer is, oh, very probably not. Seems like a bad idea, for all the usual reasons involving rights and civil liberties, and the fact that our government, while nominally seen as liberty-loving, is not forever guaranteed to be so (and of course there are many who do not believe it is that way now). With that understood, again, since this has been happening since the early days of the millennium, it seemed to me unlikely that it had suddenly had stopped. Our government doesn’t have a whole stratum of secret legal and operational apparatuses for nothing, you know. It’s being used. It hasn’t stopped being used, because, again, if it had stopped, the current administration would have made a fine show of not using it.
I’m not personally thrilled with the possibility/probability of everything I do online being strained through the government’s baleen, as it were, but I’ve assumed it’s been doing so for the last decade at least. Inasmuch as I live my online life with the assumption that nothing I do there is private and unknown anyway (i.e., it’s all discoverable at some point, and in some way), this did not require a huge adjustment on my part. The question I usually ask myself before I do anything online is this: Is this something I can tell my wife about, and she would be cool with? If the answer is “yes,” then if someone else finds out, meh.
(This doesn’t mean I’m keen to share all the (generally really not all that exciting, sadly) details of my online life with all y’all, “all y’all” including the NSA, and I think quite honestly most of you are probably happy with that arrangement as well. But if it happened, there’s nothing there that would surprise Krissy, and at the end of the day she’s actually the one that matters.)
On a related note, I’m also aware of how much privacy I’ve already given up on a daily basis to private corporations. For example, I’m nestled fairly deep into the Googlesphere at this point; I use its GMail service, have an Android phone and tablet and otherwise use a fair number of its services. Google knows where I am all the time (so long as I have my phone and/or tablet), reads my email and tracks a lot of what I do online, and in return it does a lot of things that make my life somewhat easier (I don’t get lost anymore when I go on the road, for example).
This constitutes a loss of privacy, to be sure, but it’s also varieties of privacy that I don’t feel terribly awful about compromising because a) I understand what’s being compromised and what I get out of it, b) Google doesn’t actually give a shit about my e-mail or other private information other than for keywords to offer me ads and services (and again I’m aware of that particular trade), c) a decade plus of dealing with Google has given me a good idea what I’m in for. Likewise Apple, Microsoft and Verizon, all of whose devices I use on a regular basis and have for years, and whose user agreements I actually do read.
Do I want Google (or anyone else) to allow the government access to their information on me without appropriate legal procedures? No (note Google’s flat denial of participation in a PRISM program here). On the other hand, again, simply as a matter of course, I have assumed the US government was getting my data one way or another. At the end of the day, the Internet was born out of ARPANET, and the US government has never been keen of letting the Internet go entirely private. Once more, I’m slightly surprised people seem surprised.
And again, this lack of surprise is separate and independent from my thoughts on whether this assumed suctioning up of my data is correct, just or right. What I’m saying is that I’m not especially outraged at the moment. It’s hard to be outraged for an entire decade. At least it is for me.