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The Suburbanite
  • Charita Goshay: Data mining: Necessity or encroachment?

  • A  British newspaper has cracked open a can of controversy by reporting that the NSA and some other alphabet agencies you’ve never heard of have been collecting data on millions of phone customers.

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  • A  British newspaper has cracked open a can of controversy by reporting that the NSA and some other alphabet agencies you’ve never heard of have been collecting data on millions of phone customers.
    There also are reports that the nine major Internet carriers have cooperated with the government’s request to examine customers’ user data.
    Not only isn’t the story a scandal, it isn’t even new. Data mining has been part of the campaign against terror for years, under the auspices of the Patriot Act.
    Many in Congress are whistling past the graveyard because they’ve known about it from the start. Most voted for the surveillance, and more than once.
    What is new, however, is the scope of the mining, which is far greater than imagined, as if President Barack Obama injected what George W. Bush started with steroids.
    GRAY MATTERS
    As a senator, Obama co-sponsored a bill to curb data mining. But apparently once you sit behind the big-boy desk and the national security advisers close the door, you find out why your predecessors emerged from the Oval Office with gray hair.
    While everyone’s phone data is being tracked, both Obama and the National Security Agency claim Americans’ calls aren’t being listened to.
    Uh-huh.
    Fortunately, anyone who did eavesdrop on most of our conversations probably would die from boredom:
    “What’s up?”
    “We need beer and kitty litter.”
    “And I told her that he said if she...”
    “Oh my God. I gotta lose weight.”
    “You watch ‘Breaking Bad’ last night?”
    “What do you want for dinner? And don’t say ‘whatever.’ ”
    “Call your mother. ... I have no idea. Just leave me out of it.”
    “Hi, just returning your call. What’s up?”
    WHAT PRIVACY?
    In a nation where we willingly give away personal information through Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook, we’re going to have to redefine just what we mean by privacy. Frankly, if you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a driver’s license or a student loan, or bought a loaf of bread using a frequent-shopper card, you have none.
    But it raises the questions of whether the government should be allowed to access that information, too, and why.
    Now, it must be supposed that if you book a flight to Tehran or Google “The Babes of al-Qaida,” you’re gonna get pinged. But if it’s consistently seen that the most you do is look for box scores, celebrity gossip, videos of yodeling cats — or even if you watch porn — should you still be spied upon?
    What’s bothersome is not just the scale of the monitoring but also that it’s contracted out to murky for-profit companies, which is how The Guardian got wind of this latest information.
    Page 2 of 2 - And who’s monitoring the monitors?
    Meanwhile in Columbus, the governor’s office doesn’t think that what’s done with liquor profits is any of your business, and the Senate approved, as part of its budget bill, an amendment that requires casinos to keep a five-year photo file on cash winners, they say to combat money laundering. Because if you win $25 and it’s not on file, the drug cartels win?
    No one can argue that we shouldn’t stay vigilant against terror, and no one has been better than Obama at dispatching terrorists, who are not using just bombs but also keyboards. So, can we really yell at the government for doing exactly what we demanded it do? Well, yes, we can, when it puts our rights at risk.
    We need only remember J. Edgar Hoover, who abused his authority to feed his paranoia and hatred of anyone he deemed un-American. Thus, we must be ever watchful against overreach and encroachment upon our civil rights.
    Even if we’re boring, and we look at stupid and embarrassing stuff online, it should be our business.