Tag Archives: NSA

Complacency RE: TSA

This past weekend I was on a trip to San Francisco. I was only staying for the weekend and hadn’t packed much. Everything I needed fit into a carry-on. This also meant that everything I needed would have to be loaded onto the TSA conveyor-belt to ensure that I wouldn’t be bringing anything dangerous into the passenger cabin of the plane. To my surprise, my bag was flagged and my tube of toothpaste was deemed “too large” and had to be taken away from me.

Upon returning home a few days later, I relayed the story to a colleague, who said something along the lines of “The only one to blame is yourself.” After unsuccessfully trying to argue my point that the TSA should not be able to take away toothpaste that is obviously toothpaste [1], I realized that my colleague had simply grown complacent with the TSA.

I believe strongly that the TSA is a good example of the people giving up freedoms for “protection,” something that should not happen. [2] This blog post, therefore, serves as a reminder to the reader that the people should not be willing to sacrifice freedoms for safety. The people should only be willing to accept safety precautions that do not encroach upon their freedoms. The TSA and NSA, unfortunately, do not fall into this category and should not be accepted. [3]

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1. I had asked the TSA agent if I could squeeze toothpaste out such that, when folded, the tube would meet the maximum size restrictions. They said this was not allowed.
2. A fantastic explanation of this can be seen in Glen Greenwald’s TED Talk about privacy https://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_matters?language=en
3. Unfortunately, I am not aware of a good way to fight the TSA. As a side thought, however, I wonder how many innocent tubes of toothpaste must be taken away until a tube of toothpaste is considered to be a safe item

We Are All Humans

As a citizen of the United States, it is no secret that my privacy has been in
constant violation for the entirety of my life. Despite claims of
All-American freedom, the only freedom I seem to have regarding my privacy is
the freedom to have no say into whether my privacy is breached.

The privacy issue began to be brought into the common light when Edward Snowden
revealed the ongoings of the NSA and its gratuitous spying on the American
public. This was a few years ago. Recently, however, it was revealed that AT&T
and the NSA share an agreement wherein AT&T will voluntarily aid the NSA in the
collection of data. Indeed, in several court cases against AT&T regarding their
data sharing, the United States provided AT&T with immunity, leaving them
unpunishable for their sharing of customer information.

It is easy to quickly agree that all AT&T customers should simply switch service
providers, taking their money to companies who do not have agreements with the
NSA, and thereby solving the problem. However, it isn’t that simple. If AT&T has
an agreement with the NSA that supposedly grants them immunity in court, not
many other companies would refuse such a good deal.

This raises a very big question: What gives AT&T the power to share other
peoples’ information with the government. What’s more: What gives the NSA
the right to demand this information?

What is privacy?

A longwithstanding fact is that people need some sort of privacy. Whether it
be their rooms, the bathroom, or simply privacy of mind, humans need some
place to be able to think and ponder without being watched.

Most Americans believe that they have a certain amount of privacy. For instance,
after work most Americans return to their private homes, where only a select few
individuals are allowed access. Even then, humans tend to wish for “private
time”, wherein they sit alone and contemplate things far beyond their own
personal experience.

Not only this, however. Many Americans yearn for a privacy of record. That is,
there are some things that simply need to be unexposed to everyone else. Phone
call transcripts, chat history, internet history, medical records, letters,
photos, and passwords are all examples of this. This is something that most
Americans believe they have as well. For instance, it is often considered too
Orwellian to admit that every word you say is being watched. This consideration
is testament to how much privacy Americans think that they have.

This, of course, is all understood. When it comes to the question of sharing
this privacy, many Americans will respond with something along the line of
“I have nothing to hide”! These same people, however, are reluctant in sharing
all of their personal information, passwords, and private chat transcripts
with random individuals on the street. I thought you had nothing to hide!

Governments are People

It has long been said that the United States is a nation run “by the people,
for the people”. In its literal sense, this statement simply means that the
government, the body that supposedly runs the entire country, is made up of
people. Of course, the statement was meant to be more of a democratic ideal,
showing that the same people that must follow laws have the power to change
laws.

Looking at the literal interpretation makes sense, though. After all, the
government is just a large collection of people who do various things. In
addition, the government is a small subset of the entire human population. Thus,
the government is simply a collection of humans. Just like the group it governs.

I’m not saying that the concept of a government is wrong, however. It should be
fairly obvious that without a central source of rule, things go haywire. There
is no standardization of units, no agreed upon rules, and no way to make sure
that the gullible are not abused by the persuading. This governmental group
of humans, however, are not special in any way. They, as humans, do not have
any advantages over the people they govern. They were not blessed by a god,
they are not more intelligent, they are not more knowledgeable, and they are
not more important. With seven billion people on the planet, how is it possible
that one human is more important than another? It isn’t.

With that being said, why would a certain group of humans be allowed to violate
the privacy of another group of humans? The answer is simple: They shouldn’t.
After all, privacy is something that all humans need, and for one group of
humans to deny this from another group of humans simply isn’t right.

The Current Situation

Currently, it is the case that this exact situation is occurring. A group of
humans, the United States Government, is violating the privacy of the humans
that it governs. It is not doing so in the simplistic sense that it is listening
for certain keywords to prevent terrorist attacks, but rather it is doing so in
the sense that it is storing everything. With its NSA program, the government is
storing your location of every moment of the day (via cellphone GPS), your
calls, your texts, every photo you take, every minute you spend using water,
every thing you purchase, and every person you interact with. With this, it
is creating a searchable profile for you, wherein any government official can
search for you, by name, and find out everything about you, including the things
you do in “private”.

Of course, the humans that are being governed don’t have much of a choice. By
simply living in the United States, they signed an invisible contract saying
that another group of humans, the government, had the right to invade every
aspect of their private lives.

This, of course, should not be happening. Following the ideals of all men
being created equal, one group of humans should not be able to invade the
privacy and the lives of another group of humans.

We are all humans. We are all the same. No one should have privilege over others
in the magnitude that the United States government has privilege over its
citizens.