When George Orwell wrote his famous dystopian novel “1984,” I don’t even think he could’ve imagined the global expansion of surveillance technologies that faces the world today.
Just this summer, Edward Snowden exposed the methods that the NSA was using to collect personal data: the data-mining program known as “PRISM.”
Since then, much of the American public has been in an uproar over the federal government’s intrusion into their personal lives.
Information gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union shows that the government did indeed expand the use of Internet surveillance methods and the amount of information that government agencies collect and store has increased almost exponentially.
One company to come under scrutiny in congruence with this data mining is Google. Other reports have even shown that the NSA has impersonated Google to get its hands on personal information.
To make matters worse, in an apparent attempt to defend his company, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt recently commented that government spying is inevitable — it is the “nature of our society.”
On one hand, Schmidt is right. Nationalism in itself fosters within individual nations the inherent goal of competing with one another. The Cold War is perhaps the best example of two global superpowers locked in a decades-long struggle with one another using the CIA and the KGB to further their own ends.
In these instances, the public probably supported the government in its attempts to collect and discover important data. When this intrusion begins to encroach on someone’s own personal life, however, there is much more backlash.
This is what the global war on terrorism has shown us.
It has shown us to what extent the public will give their government power in order to make themselves feel safer.
Twelve years removed from Sept. 11 and almost two terms removed from George W. Bush’s presidency, it appears that the public has grown weary of the power that it has granted to the federal government, and rightfully so.
Perhaps the imminent fear of another al-Qaida attack has worn off — or perhaps Snowden’s leaks actually gave people a specific example which people can now accurately allocate their fears — but the fact remains that we should be terrified of our government’s new “legal” power, and furious that it is indeed lawful.
But he’s also been called a patriot and a hero.
As U.S. citizens, we should be disgusted with how powerful our government has become and furious with ourselves for letting it evolve in this way.
As a country, we should strive to battle radicalized individuals with the free market of ideas, not with an unlawful intrusion into the lives of individuals.
Benjamin Franklin is thought to have said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
If America continues down this path, a time will inevitably comewhen U.S. citizens fear their own government more than decentralized terror networks. Perhaps it is already here.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com or follow him on twitter at @sean_mccauley.