It’s your choice to participate in PRISM (or not)
This year Edward Snowden made history by informing the world that the NSA is spying on them. It’s no surprise really. In the 1950’s the FBI was spying on American citizens and even poets were added to the FBI watchlist for being ‘unamerican’. These days it seems like every minute there is more protesting online from people stating now how much they resent Obama, PRISM or the democrats for PRISM. The news is full of flag burnings, and other stories, like how a German artist projected “United Stasi of America on the American embassy (a historical reference to the tyranny of the East German Soviet secret police). The FBI is seeking to have realtime access to your gmail account. And to make matters worse Obama has launched a federal campaign requiring federal employees to spy on each other and report potential leakers under threat of prosecution. Attached to these news articles are thousands of facebook replies by people complaining about this “Orwellian nightmare” we now find ourselves in. Certainly ‘we the people’ appear to resent PRISM and having the right to privacy violated. We’re critical of a government that embraces a policy of spying on private citizens. But perhaps we’re being just a little hypocritical, wanting to have our cake and eat it too.
Let’s face facts, most of us signed up for this shit. The irony is that we helped voluntarily create the PRISM database. Every day millions of people are willingly consenting to adding their personal profiles into corporate databases for Facebook, Google and the like. We are attracted to the honeypot. But we do have the choice to add our personal data or not.
For example, Google has been trying for at least a year now to get me to sign up for google+ and today curiosity got the better of me, to my regret. There’s circles, hangouts and all this other cool stuff that the other kids are playing with. I’m feeling left out so I click OK and the next thing you know I’m having to enter my full real name, birthday, where I went to school, and the city I live in. I choose to activate my profile and then Google gets really creepy. It tells me what my interests are, because somehow it’s been keeping track of the topics of my interests. It’s tracking who I email the most and suggesting who I should be friends with (that what big brothers are for!) I notice in the group are some co workers I emailed once on Gmail. It makes me wonder what these coworkers can see of my activities online. I value my privacy, and don’t exactly ‘hang out’ with everyone I have to work with each day on the job.
So I try to prevent my full name from being shown. I was raised using computers during the days of the BBS and 12oobps modems, and not to use your real name online for obvious reasons. And today I learn that Google has implemented a full real name policy: they don’t allow to using nickname or something else (except for famous celebrities like 50 Cent or Lady Gaga who are permitted to use their stage name). You’re expected to use this one public profile for all google sites. If you try to change your name, you’re warned not to, and reminded it should be the real deal or you could be suspended. I hate Facebook for violating people’s privacy and I need to start hating Google for the very same reasons.
We hate the idea of PRISM, so why do we submit to this and voluntarily hand over our such all our personal info? Do we really trust corporations to treat us nicely? I believe it stems more from a fear of being left out somehow if we’re not plugged in to social media. Underneath it all we’re feeling lonely, and hoping that mouse-clicks on websites will help us to be more ‘social’. We see the pretty people in the perfect looking photos and we want our own life to look like that too. It’s an illusion, but we are attracted by it.
We’re also attracted by the idea of cheap or free. I brought home a chromebook from the store because of the low price. But whats the long term cost? Every time they sell us using another ‘free’ service they’re still making money selling our data and advertising to us. Google wants me hooked on using Gmail and to rely on using Google Docs, Drive, and Android. It’s like an addiction where we’re not yet ready to admit there’s a problem, let alone deciding that we want to quit. Maybe more people will care when intelligence services are putting people on watch lists for being ‘unamerican’ like they did in the 1950s? Maybe once full blown Neo McCarthyism is raging?
The whole thing seems hopelessly overwhelming at first. But consider for a second how Facebook claims 1 billion active users and there’s 5 more billion of us (mostly in the developing world) that you won’t find on f-book. So potentially that means for every one who signed up for this PRISM bullshit on Facebook there’s 5 who didn’t. Just imagine the masses of people out there you won’t find on facebook. Many of whom are struggling just to find work for a dollar a day. All this web 2.0 nonsense is the least of their concerns.
Being ‘anti-social-media’ doesn’t mean antisocial. It means more time spent enjoying real face to face relationships. Most marriages would likely improve if spouses would spend less time gawking at f-book and more real quality time with family. We need to teach our children the difference between a ‘friend’ link on f-book and real friendship. Are virtual f-book ‘friend’ links really going to be there for you when you need an actual real helping hand in your life? With the overwhelming communication technologies available have we become a better friend? Why not just pick up the phone to chat, or emailing a note to stay in touch? Is it suddenly a lost art to stay in touch using such ‘old fashioned’ methods?
If we choose to “turn off and drop out” we need to be prepared for some serious lifestyle changes. We might be faced with actually using our time to get *real* things done. With all the time not spent on social media we won’t be able to make some excuse anymore about not having enough time for exercise and fresh air. If you don’t like the idea of voluntarily participating in PRISM you can start to fight back. Why not go delete your google+ account for starters. Go to http://www.google.com/settings/account
At the bottom of the page is a link “Delete profile and remove related Google+ features.”