I live by the adage that you should never say anything on the phone or write anything on the internet or via email that you do not want to hear twice – first when you say or write it, and again when confronted by it in a court of law.
That’s not to say that I’m always careful about what I say. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I misspeak. I’m human. But the general point that your communications are subject to monitoring was driven home this week by revelations that the United States government has been secretly building and maintaining a massive system by which in collects communication information, records, internet data, email correspondence, and other types of text communications that are pulled together in a system called PRISM maintained by the National Security Agency.
The Obama Administration has claimed that only non-US persons are targeted, but documents revealed by journalist Glenn Greenwald indicate that virtually all Americans are subject to surveillance because the standard for what constitutes belief that a person is a “non-US person” is so low.
In addition, Greenwald reports that the NSA collects data, which it then keeps, and later can search with very little or no oversight from courts.
Defenders of the program claim that Americans need to reconcile themselves to the fact that we can never be completely safe, and secure, while maintaining our privacy.
But this of course misses the point. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”