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Why We Care More About Facebook Privacy Than Government Surveillance

It's striking to note which types of privacy concerns get media airtime.  

On December 28th, 2012, the Senate vowed to renew FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, until the year 2017.  This bill "allows federal agencies to eavesdrop on communications and review email without following an open and public warrant process".  Obama signed the FISA extention on December 31st, 2012.  Note that this bill was simply up for renewal and extension; this bill has been around since 1978.  However, it was greatly expanded by the Bush administration to allow for both domestic and foreign surveillance without warrant.  So long as the intent of the surveillance is "gathering foreign intelligence", any individual is fair to be targeted.

Originally, Senator Reid (D-Nevada) and other members of Senate sought to slip a renewal of the act through without debate.  Senator Merkley (D-Oregon) is on record as warning: "Citizens generally assume our government is not spying on them. If they had any inkling of how this system really works, the details of which I cannot discuss, they would be profoundly appalled."

Senator Wyden (D-Oregon) sought to require that the director of national intelligence shares information about the vast surveillance.  That would include information about how many Americans have been monitored, as well as whether communications between Americans is also being watched.  Wyden's amendment had both bi-partisan support and bi-partisan opposition, and was rejected 52-43.  Among those who rejected the bill were Feinstein (D-California) and Chambliss (R-Georgia), both ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Feinstein claimed that the proposed Wyden amendment would expose "information about a very effective intelligence collection program that is currently classified."  To see who supported and who rejected the transparency amendment: senate.gov

(edit: source for the map)

According to a quick Google search, the New York Times has still not covered the renewal of this bill.  However, another Google search revealed that the New York Times has been covering the recent privacy issues with Facebook and Instagram.  Here and here and here and here...

So what gives?  Why the lack of big media coverage for something as serious as government surveillance?  Why the numerous articles about the privacy policies of social websites?  Every time Twitter or Facebook or Google or whoever updates their privacy policy, we hear about it from a hundred different sources, we can't seem to escape the barrage of media outrage.

Scott Shackford hypothesizes that the media is simply responding to what the public wants--they're covering what the public cares about.  And to the public, Facebook and Twitter are much more tangible and "real" than drone strikes or warrantless wiretapping or indefinite detention laws.  The public is both afraid of the spector of "terrorism" and distanced from the realities of these situations--they don't have access to the majority of the infomation, after all.  This makes it relatively easy for government to expand its authority beyond the Constitution's limitations without voter push-back.

The privacy concerns we have with social media feel more immediate, they hit closer to home.  We hear about a security breach making Randi Zuckerberg's private Facebook photo public, and we go crazy, because we can see ourselves in that situation.  Or we're concerned about our copyright and privacy rights because they're ours, so we post a silly privacy notice on our walls, thinking that, somehow, that'll show them not to mess with us!

We don't see ourselves as terrorists, as deserving being indefinitely detained or wiretapped or drone striked, so we don't care.  We don't see ourselves as having this actually happen to us, so we don't mind the lack of transparency--never mind that the lack of transparency makes it easier for the government to conceal just how much they actually are watching us, how much it actually is becoming a part of our reality, how much it really does affect us.  We're okay with the very real degradation of our Constitutional rights.

So, what can we do about this?  For starters, the EFF and the ACLU massively campaign to keep the Government accountable.  Numbers matter, the more people who express their outrage, the more the Government has to deal with a potential PR nightmare.  Educate your family members, your friends.  Keep up with the posts by Techdirt or Reason or whichever website provides information that you feel to be reliable on these matters.  

Anyone have any other ideas?  Anything more creative or radical than petitions and keeping informed?

posted 1 year 3 months ago

Time for torches and pitchforks?

posted 1 year 3 months ago

second hiroshima?....target = washington

posted 1 year 3 months ago

would probably double the national avg iq

 

 

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 cerdjee4, hopefully not im in that city.

posted 1 year 3 months ago

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Awesome for Greece, too bad i live im in Belgium and i dont have to live with the crap you guys have in the US

posted 1 year 3 months ago
posted 1 year 3 months ago

 senior year? pfff i learned that in 2 years ago as a freshie

posted 1 year 3 months ago

Sadly the reason it gets through so easily is its Intelligence and in the intelligence game the more Data and Information you collect the better...

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Please make videos lol or dont, think i need the practise my english reading.. =(

Examinations to morrow?! .)

posted 1 year 3 months ago

I would love to get more information about that map, do you have a link or something where this is elaborated upon? Can't really give another comment, while I know government surveillance is an issue over in the states, the back story in the first half of this article leaves me with many questions.

 

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13145-us-and-uk-rival-china-for-go...

That's the article the picture came from, it's a little old (2008) but it doesn't seem that the surveillance issues have been getting better :\

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Thanks for the article, interesting source.

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Not sure what to say, im just tired of shit like this... what can we do?!

I do know that, stuff "usa" creats, will sooner or later spread to the rest of the world.

Ill be back later, after my headache is gone and read it again. See if i understand it then xd

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 I think the reason that media covers privacy policies in facebook and not government is because the sad truth is that more people in the US care more about their facebook accounts then they do government and foreign policies.  They think that some how, this doesn't effect us.  Or maybe they just don't care if the government reads their emails.  The media and news will print what they think will be read.  That is why there is more crap about Kim Kardasian (however you spell her name) and her being pregnant then there is about us loseing our rights.  It is getting to the point when we need to start showing the importance of these issues to the general public.  How do we do that though?

posted 1 year 3 months ago

1. No one ever trusted Facebook to begin with - I think many people are just waiting for a reasonable excuse to move onto something else.

2. Despite the level of surveillance we aren't terribly censored. In fact you could take the most extreme stance you want and shout about it in the US (i.e. Westboro Church). I believe hate speech like that is illegal in the UK  so obviously there is a line in the sand (similarly, in the US a man was arrested for threatening the President).

3. Things aren't terrible. We have the internet, affordable tech devices, cool video games, etc. and as much I might agree there is always room for improvement the world certainly isn't ending (despite repeated asinine predictions that it will). The global economy and infrastructure are so good in fact that we experienced a global depression without taking major hits to our standard of living.

Obviously, I think we should be concerned with our privacy from both the government and private organizations. Groups like the EFF are very important. But just remember who issued you your SSN card and birth certificates in the first place; governments exist for a reason. Just playing devil's advocate.

edit: clarity

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 1) Perhaps that's true.  But many of those freaking out did it on facebook--they didn't cancel their accounts, they didn't make the shift to Google+ or what-have-you.  I think the outrage with facebook, for the majority of facebook users, has less to do with the desire to move and more to do with how intimitely connected they are with the website.  They don't want to use the site less, they just want control of the terms of use (which, realistically, was never a possibility).

2) Surveillance and censorship are two different issues.  You don't swap one for another.  Also, the "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" mentality many people hold is a disturbing fallacy that makes it easier for lawmakers to push further levels of surveillance and violate citizen rights as they've been defined in the Constitution.

3) A "things aren't terrible" argument doesn't nullify Constitutional rights.  The world clearly isn't ending, but do things have to escalate to that level before we do something?  Seems like it's our civic duty to ensure that both we and the government uphold our parts of the social contract.

Governments do exist for a reason: to protect the rights of their citizens.  That is the reason we enter into a social contract with a government: because, as a group, we are better equipped to protect our individual and collective rights than we are as lone individuals.  At least, those are the core Lockean principles on which the US government was founded.

posted 1 year 3 months ago

1) This is more likely than what I postulated, well said.

2) They are very linked, it's impossible to censor without surveillance (Catch-22, the enemy can do whatever you can't stop them from doing). I couldn't agree with you more about the "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear," mentality. It's wrong and obviously at odds with the Constitution.

3) I wasn't trying to justify the nullification of our rights, I was offering an explanation as to why most people aren't really that concerned. The only civic duties I expect from my fellow citizens are voting and respecting my rights.

Thank you for taking the time to address each of my earlier points.

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Of coure, thanks for engaging in conversation with me.

I wish that the only duty requried of us were to vote and respect each other's rights.  Unfortunately, we have collectively let things slip, mainly out of fear.  We accept extra "security" against some faceless "terrorist" or what-have-you, without thinking about the backlash against us, the citizens.

While surveillance is somewhat important to censorship, censorship is not necessarily important to surveillance.  At least as I see it.  Seems like you can watch without actively sticking your hands in and saying "you can't say/do that".  You can collect data for future endeavors, keep tabs on consumption, etc.  There are more reasons to spy than just to censor those you're spying on.

I think that people really are just disconnected from reality.  I think they're removed from the extent of these laws, and they see themselves as innocent, so they don't worry too much.  We don't see the data from surveillance, but we do see the effects of a social network misstep--we can put ourselves in the place of someone whose private photos got leaked, but not in the place of a "terrorist".

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Like I've stated many times before: Let's move to Antarctica and build a stable city for our super-cooled PC's.

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 They push the facebook things to distract us from them spying on us like terrorists.

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Excellent post.

posted 1 year 3 months ago
posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Thanks for this.

posted 1 year 3 months ago

 Why we care about privacy and then have no problem being whores of google and co.

posted 1 year 3 months ago

It's the governments world I'm just living in it. I mean what am I to do about it, sign some shitty petition, throw on a orange jump suit and sit outside the oval office. Threaten to set myself on fire if the government doesn't stop watching my friends play Steam games and jack off to porn?