by Jack Lohmann, Summer Intern
As a Millennial concerned about privacy and protection from government surveillance, I’m often asked by my peers: Why should I care? Why should I care about cameras on corners, police databases, and who has access to information on the location of my cell phone? Most of us break no laws, and, as students, we’ve become pretty accustomed to surveillance, anyway. Who’s to care if some government database catalogs every email I send or receive?
I care. I don’t want my conversations intercepted and saved by the government. I may spend the vast majority of my life in a half dozen locations, but where I go and when I go there is not something I want tracked by the government and stored “just in case” somebody needs to investigate my whereabouts on any given day.
People often say they can tell when they’re being watched. Such a gut feeling is usually in reference to conventional, in-person snooping—but these days, we’re being watched and recorded 24/7. From tracking our online movements to saving our locations as we go places, America’s surveillance state knows a lot about us. (A recent reveal from whistleblower Edward Snowden alleges that NSA workers pass around nude photos intercepted during the course of their work.) Schools these days are situated with cameras at every turn that record and save our movements and actions. (Somewhere there are hundreds of 10-second videos of me at school: talking to friends, drinking water, going to class.)
Being watched is an uncomfortable experience. Some things in school are necessary evils; a certain level of surveillance is one of them. My generation has grown up online. I don’t want to look back at some point in my life, knowing that people I’ve never met know where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, and what I’ve been thinking pretty much any instant in my personal life.
This is a technology-laced age, and many contend that we must accept a loss of privacy in order to lead safer, happier lives—but, as Josh Billings once wrote, it just ain’t so.
My generation has a choice to make. We can allow the government to log our license plates and tape our driving, save our communications and keep our location history. Or, we can just say no. Not without a warrant, not without a reason to believe that we’re doing something wrong.
Whatever information the government collects on us now could be in their databases forever. Ours could be the first generation in the history of the world to live totally surveilled lives—a fittingly dangerous experiment with grave implications for our freedoms. Or, we can speak out now in favor of a free American society in which we aren’t constantly observed, tracked, and recorded. An America that doesn’t treat us all like criminals, “just in case.” An America that values liberty and security equally and doesn’t present us with a false choice between them.
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