Loss of privacy should frighten Americans

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“Nothing every really goes away on the Internet.”

It’s advice we give to our children and high school graduates, urging them to think twice about what they post online for everyone to see. That funny picture of you and your buddies kicking back on a Friday night may come back to haunt you when you apply for a job in five years, we warn. And it’s sage advice.

But perhaps now we need to add another warning: Don’t expect that anything you do online or any phone conversations you have are private.

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As details are unraveling this week about the National Security Agency’s sweeping effort to collect Internet data and telephone records since 2007, Americans are reminded once again that an expectation of privacy isn’t a guaranteed right in our country.

We should be outraged by this but, sadly, many Americans are either indifferent or unconcerned about the government’s encroachment on our personal lives.

The unsettling notion that our government can, and likely has, tracked individuals’ online activity and personal conversations should terrify us as Americans. Ostensibly we’ve ceded the expectations of privacy in turn for enhanced security, particularly in this age of global terror threats. And, to some extent, it’s a valid argument.

But as the adage goes, “you give them an inch and they take a mile” and a program that starts as a way to identify and track potential terrorists seeking to kill Americans has devolved into a super-secret, expansive government program spying on its own citizens.

And that is most certainly something to worry about.