People Freak Out About Privacy On Facebook, But Ignore Widespread Government Surveillance
from the sad dept
Reason has a great (if disappointing) post noting the very different reactions from both the press and the public to silly and exaggerated stories about privacy issues around Facebook as compared to the Senate reapproving the FISA Amendments Act, which has almost certainly allowed massive surveillance of and collection of data and communications from millions of Americans. You’d think the latter would deserve more attention, but nope.
There’s currently nothing on the New York Times web site about the votes (either yesterday’s or today’s). The Associated Press wrote a story about the House’s vote in September but nothing yet from yesterday or today. The Washington Post did post a story this morning. A Google news search will land hits with mostly tech or web-based media outlets.
Compare the lack of response to the way people react to privacy breaches connected to Facebook or Twitter. Media outlet after media outlet carried reports about a private picture of Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, accidentally being made public somehow through social media channels. And how many of your Facebook friends posted that silly, pointless “privacy notice” on their walls?
The post, by Scott Shackford, notes that you can’t just blame the media for failing to cover the FISA Amendments Act votes — they’re just responding to what the public wants. And because Facebook seems more “real” to people than the NSA recording all their info, it seems to hit closer to home, even if one is a real abuse of privacy, and the other isn’t.
The degradation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is an academic or theoretical matter for so many people and often lacks a strong human narrative to draw public outrage. Indeed, the very secrecy behind the application of federal domestic wiretapping has made it impossible to introduce a human narrative. We do not even know how many Americans have been spied on due to these rules (which was what Wyden’s amendment was trying to fix). Like our foreign drone strikes and indefinite detention laws, the public’s distance from the actual rights violations (and government-fueled fears of acts of terrorism) is a useful barrier for the state to get away with expanding its authority beyond the Constitution’s limitations without significant voter pushback.
Whereas, just about everybody’s on Facebook. Facebook’s privacy systems affect them directly every day, and they see it. So Americans are furious that Instagram might sell their photos, while shrugging at what the federal government might do with the exact same data.
As he points out, this is why it’s been so important for the government to keep the details of its spying program a secret. If people realized that the government really was sweeping up all sorts of data, they might realize that this directly impacts them too. But, that’s all secret.