Most people do not realize how popular they are. You are a star. The government, a million corporate entities and a host of identity thieves simply cannot get enough of you. You are the celebrity, and they are the paparazzi. Lurking in every cybercorner, they are dying to collect each scrap of information about you they can get their hands on.
Even the shy wallflower wearing plaid pants, a polka dot shirt, an Andy Rooney unibrow and size 18 clown shoes is fascinating to our technological watchers. It warms the heart to know you are never alone and your every action is important.
Your car’s computer is constantly recording vital data, just like an airliner’s black box. Your smartphone can be used to pinpoint and record your GPS location. Google knows your every Internet search; and Facebook records all your likes.
It used to be that people who lived in a totalitarian state could turn up the radio and whisper their most intimate thoughts to family members or friends, knowing the secret police could not hear the conversation. Today, even radio noise can be technologically eliminated, and the whisper magnified to intelligible words. Only in one’s own mind are contrarian beliefs truly safe from the prying ears and eyes of the technology state, successor to the totalitarian states of old.
Not only are the phone records of every American being collected and saved for the next 70 years by the National Security Agency; but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled March 20 that it is perfectly legal, constitutional and appropriate for law enforcement to collect DNA from people arrested for felonies – even if they are never formally charged – and store the genetic profiles.
Please note, this is not about convicted felons, or even those charged with a felony, but anyone who is merely arrested.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights guaranties: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” One wonders how any U.S. court could issue such a ruling as the 9th Circuit’s March 20 judgment.
It seems we increasingly live in a post-Bill of Rights society, wherein other concerns are deemed more important than constitutional protections. Freedom of the press is viewed to be less important than “national security.” The Affordable Care Act’s promised health benefits take priority over the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Safety concerns are regarded as more essential than the Second Amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The powers of our federal bureaucracy are considered more vital than the Tenth Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
I really do appreciate being so important to my government that they want to know every little tidbit about me. None of us should feel insignificant to our government and corporate watchers. However, I cannot help but long for a freer and more private society, like the one George Orwell wrote about in his novel, “1984.”
In “Orwell’s view of the future, it was only the TVs that watched citizens in their homes. Today, every chip in each household appliance, from the “smart” thermostat to the flashing cable box, reminds us, “Big Brother is watching; and he cares for you.”
The Rev. Daniel Molyneux is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fairfield. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.