The American public is being trained to be paranoid, but only with respect to government.
Every time we use an ATM we are photographed. Every time we swipe a credit card or a debit card, the transaction is not only recorded on our account but goes into a central database. Every time we use a supermarket or drugstore discount card our purchases are recorded and used to determine our shopping habits.
These are industrial and commercial organizations that try to follow our every move.
But that is all right — it’s not the Feds.
If people ever actually looked at their credit report, they would be amazed, and probably distressed, at what information about your private, personal financial habits it contains, and it is available to every company that wants it.
But that is all right — it’s not the Feds or the state or the city. That does not impinge on our right to privacy.
When a government entity puts up surveillance cameras to enforce traffic laws, that is an invasion of our privacy. We are entitled to speed, to run red lights, to ignore stop signs; it is our right.
When the government puts up surveillance cameras in public locations to try to reduce crime, that is an invasion of our privacy. Whatever the government does to try to keep us safe from harm, that is an invasion of our privacy.
Since when do we have an expectation of privacy in a public place? Is it a right that is in the Constitution? Oh, sure, we want to be safe, but we want to have the right to do the things we want to, even if it breaks the law. That is our right.
It doesn’t seem to matter that these cameras help solve crimes or prevent them by allowing the police to know and pursue those who committed them. How likely is it that we would have identified and caught the Boston bombers without cameras?
We want systems that only watch others. A large number of crimes are solved and criminals arrested as the result of surveillance cameras.
We want the government to prevent terrorism, but we don’t want it to snoop. We don’t want it to look for suspicious activities in our mail.
We want the government to use ESP so that it knows ahead of time whose mail, whose phone calls, whose email traffic needs to be watched. We blame the ineptness of the government for 9/11, but we don’t want it to do the thorough searches that are the only way of identifying potential terrorists.
Good luck. Whatever happened to “The home of the brave”?
And while we are being paranoid about trivia, we forget to watch out and object to the most insidious snoop of all:
“He knows when you are sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake.”