Sunday, November 18, 2018

NSA: How High? The Price of High-tech.

February 13, 2015 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Politics, Tech/Internet, Weekly Columns

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“I always feel like somebody’s watching me

And I have no privacy

Whoa-oh, I always feel like somebody’s watching me

Tell me is it just a dream?

So goes the chorus of the 1984 R&B hit “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell – with an assist from Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson. I find it more than a little ironic that a song written about paranoia released 31 years old reflects the world in which we live in 2015. As a self-described techie, I am loathed to admit this, but the truth is the truth. There is a high cost to the high technology in our lives.

Consider computers. We all remember the scourge of pop-up ads during the halcyon days of dial-up internet access. We considered those ads to be annoying but harmless – until we came to understand the effects going to certain websites had on our computer caches. In the years since, as our net access became progressively faster and more sophisticated, we became vulnerable to all manner of attacks: computer viruses, malware, worms, hacking, and data theft. The blackhats are out there, folks. Whenever these individual computer hackers and groups of hackers feel so inclined, they can remotely access the webcams integrated in our laptops and tablets to literally watch us.

Privacy in the classic sense is essentially a thing of the past. Blackhats steal our passwords so they could use our email accounts, our Facebook accounts, and our Twitter accounts to spread their messages. These criminals seek to commandeer our personal photos,nsa-internet-phone-2015 our financial information, and our email content for their own hostile intentions. Not even governmental agencies, movie studios, and famous movie stars are immune. There is no doubt that computers – and by extension the internet – have made our lives easier. There is, however, a price to be paid for our total reliance on computers. Who’s watching you?

Consider smartphones. I-phone faithful, did you know that every single time you speak to Siri – your beloved virtual assistant – your voice is recorded and transmitted back to Apple? Did you know that your voice recordings immediately become the intellectual/proprietary property of Apple since you used their device? Did you know that once your voice becomes its property, Apple can sell your voice and I-phone preferences to any third-party it so desires? And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. I’m not picking on Apple. Such is the case for all cellular providers. You don’t have to be a fan of the Jason Bourne movies to know that your cellphone is a very effective tracking device. The FBI, NSA, or CIA could easily find you through your phone by triangulating its signal using satellites and cell phone towers. Over the last year or so, you’ve probably heard a lot about the National Security Agency (NSA) in the news.

The whole Edward Snowden saga brought to light the NSA’s legal authority to use a massive domestic eavesdropping system to catalogue and analyze phone calls and Internet communications made by American citizens. Court orders aren’t necessary. Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but this stark reality didn’t originate with the Patriot Act. No, our phone calls were monitored by the government long before that. Why do you think that whenever someone threatens a President or a Senator, law enforcement agents are kicking in their door minutes later? If you think text messages, emails, or calls made on your mobile phone are secure, I’ve got an affordable 100-story building in downtown Cairo, GA to sell you. Have smartphones made our lives more efficient? Absolutely. But you’re also paying the price for faster, more reliable communication options. Who else is listening in?

Average Americans – like myself – are caught between hungry lions and rabid wolfpacks. We seek protection from cyberthreats from our elected officials. Our Congressmen and Senators seem either too busy, unwilling, or unable to come together to craft meaningful legislation to address these threats – or those who perpetrate these crimes. Meanwhile, the alphabet agencies – the FBI, NSA, and CIA among others – secretly lobby for and are granted sweeping powers of surveillance far beyond what is needed for the purpose of law enforcement. We the people don’t want to be stripped of all rights to privacy by the good guys or the bad guys. We have no inclination to be babes in the woods.

Years ago, hackers wanted your credit card number(s). Now want to be you in all the ways that matter: electronically, financially, and virtually. Superman isn’t coming. Who, then, will save the day?

As the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield once said, “It’s rough out there!” I wholeheartedly concur.

“I’m just an average man,

with an average life

I work from nine to five;

hey hell, I pay the price.”

And then some. Rockwell was actually right. It’s not merely your imagination. High-tech, high price.

Staff Writer; Arthur L. Jones, III

This talented brother is a local Minister, weekly featured Democratic Op-Ed columnist, non-profit advisor, and sees the Braves winning it all this fall. Rev. Jones welcomes your comments! Please email him directly at:

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