The Bottom Line: Snowden, Secrets, Syria … and Common Sense
Some say the information age dawned as early as the early 1970s with the birth of email, while others may argue the light wasn’t realized until the early 1990s with rise of the World Wide Web. Either way, there’s no doubt that the era of information sharing is at least into its third decade with a growth rate that rivals a computer virus. Yet in a time when information travels at the speed of light, the public continues to be astonished when once-private information goes, well, public.
Examples abound. Teenagers wonder how their parents found out about an alcohol-filled party they attended. Politicians show bad judgment and marvel at how quickly their constituents know all the details. Chemical weapons kill hundreds, the victims’ pictures show up on the evening news and a country’s president acts astonished to be held accountable.
Is it really so hard to understand? The answers are pretty simple: social media, smartphones, satellites. Combine these technical capabilities with a heightened requirement for safety and common sense says that the eyes of the world are upon you … literally. Why would anyone be surprised by reports about the acts they thought were private can go viral? It also doesn’t take a Mensa IQ to know that it’s spy agencies’ jobs to spy. Why would anyone be surprised that they are using all the tools at their disposal? (Whether or not they should is another question.)
Most Gen Xers understand. Having not only learned but also expanded the power of the Internet as children and young adults, they acknowledge that privacy is a thing of the past. Many were still so young at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that they don’t know a world without constant surveillance. And for the sake of security, they not only accept it, they expect it.
But while many look with wonder on the capabilities of today’s connect-everything-to-everywhere technologies, they say they are shocked by how they are being used. The National Security Agency (NSA) collecting communications data ? How could they? The FBI using unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance over the United States? Unbelievable. Google collecting personal information? Really?
The bottom line is that the information about the NSA snooping and the intelligence community’s black budget that Edward Snowden made public weren’t really revelations, were they? Common sense says that there’s a lot more information out there than in the pre-Internet dark ages, and it’s going to be used. They may not be the largest group of computer users, but the Greatest Generation had it right: “If more than one person knows something, it is no longer a secret.” And they were right about something else, too: “Common sense isn’t all that common.”
Once you had time to digest the information that’s been “revealed” in the media during the past several months, which revelation surprised you most? Tell us in the comments section, or share your insights on the SIGNAL Facebook page.