To me, the only thing more surprising about the current scandal about government spying on US citizens has been the surprise of US citizens about government spying on US citizens. Of course the government is going to spy on us, it does that to gather information about god-only-knows-who-or-what (presumably terrorists, but others are caught up in the spy net too). It does it because it can, because the technology exists for electronic records to be kept which can be sent around the world in a few seconds with a few keystrokes on a computer. It’s unlikely Verizon is the only company to supply records to the NSA; almost certainly a lot of other companies are too. We have a marvelous system for transmitting information. Call it the web, the internet, the cloud, whatever you want, whenever you go online, what you write or access is stored somewhere, on your own computer or a server, ready to be accessed by those whom you want to see it, as well as by those you don’t. Even this blog is a part of it. It’s most likely stored at the WordPress server somewhere in the US. (Based on the time difference between where I am and the time given by the WordPress clock, I assume it’s in the Eastern time zone). I have no doubt someone somewhere could access this blog without the information showing up on the visitor’s log which tells me how many people visited the site and what stories they looked at. Whether they really are or not, I don’t know. (How could I?). That might require WordPress’s complicity and approval, though. The FBI, the NSA, the CIA, the White House, Congress, all could be reading this surreptitiously. (Actually, I hope they do. That would be more than the known visitors I get.)
In any event, the ability is there. I wouldn’t be surprised if not only the US government but other governments and private companies across the globe are accessing private data of their citizens and customers which we know nothing about. The Verizon-NSA files are likely only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is computer, cell phone, and internet security. The computer is a powerful instrument. It transmits a line of code in a millionth of a second and it’s hard to stop. That makes it absurdly easy to collect data. It’s also difficult for people who have a vested interest in some aspect of the global economy to ignore the vast amount of information available by mining the internet and your phone records. Just look at all the targeted ads you’re getting. Oh, yes, you are getting targeted ads. I could call for better internet security, but that’s a rather naïve plea, unlikely to be taken seriously. No one is going to stop collecting information just because it offends someone’s sensibilities. Keep that in mind when you log on next time. Some one is watching and/or listening.
Sorry, I don’t usually do a blog on current events, but because the topic involves a certain amount of scientific acumen–after all, the computer, the internet, etc., were developed largely by scientists–I felt justified. What the heck, I have a vested interest in the internet too.